"Quick" statement regarding +Zak Sabbath. I will not be enabling comments.

I received an email yesterday morning from someone who was looking to do a review on the new Vampire game, but ran into all of this conflicting information on Zak. For the first time in my 5-year friendship with Zak, someone actually reached out to ask me why I'm friends with him, and how I see all of the things that have been going around.

I laid out a complex response because this isn't a simple issue. I'm not going to argue with people who claim to have been harassed by Zak. I believe those people genuinely feel like they've been harassed, and need to stay away from Zak - especially away from talking shit about him behind his back and spreading lies. You can't dedicate a whole lot of time to talking shit about someone, then get pissed off when they show up to defend themselves and you're unprepared. That, in a nutshell, is what's happens again and again and again.

Let's not forget, as well, that this all started because Zak and Mandy were called out as problematic because they are sex workers, a position that no truly intersectional feminist would take on, but one of which many who claim to be intersectional have.

A person who literally falsely accused another of rape hasn't been blacklisted, but Zak, who called for accountability of those that spread that terribly damaging rumor? He's been eviscerated. Time and time again. For nothing. As the folks at White Wolf said, the evidence is available and archived on the internet, and it is baseless.

I get harassed by people in this community constantly. Straight white OSR dudes who think I'm ruining the industry by using abstract cover art for OSR products. OSR dudes who just LOVE to send me emails telling me everything I'm doing wrong and how I should fix it. Guys who like to bash ConTessa because they're not invited to the party or the asshole that attacked S&W for not being stuffed with busty babes. Fuck, when I left G+, people harassed me about that, too.

One of the remaining pillars of OD&D spends at least part of his time gaslighting me, and he's done that for the past year, but, still, a lot of my OSR friends and fans have him on their friends list and still fanboy all over him. He does this to many women, by the way. Gamergate-inspired fools try to spam the ConTessa Twitter account with death and rape threats for running women-only workshops on the regular. There's a man who's been writing blog posts about me and spying on me, and treating me like shit for years, and he's still welcome in the OSR community. I've even had to swallow the bile down and smile when people talked nicely about him in my presence and ask me why we have a 'feud', when there is no 'feud', just one man spending years attacking me to the point where I feel uncomfortable attending cons in his presence.

Well-meaning but self-serving progressive straight white males just LOVE to mansplain to me how I should be doing activism. White women who have embraced an outdated form of feminism, and find any and all challenges to that feminism reason to blacklist, name-call, and hate gossip about me behind my back constantly. And of course, I've been totally excluded from clubs and cliques because I don't conform to outdated and debunked forms of feminism, and I don't believe gender and sex minorities need to be treated like we're incompetent even by the people who are trying to help us. Some of the harassment even comes because I'm friends with Zak. I've lost potential sponsorships based on just that one detail, and have had to deal with an endless stream of, "Do you know what so-and-so is saying behind your back?" A bit ironic, eh?

In 2015, when I stood up on the ENnies stage four times to accept awards for Zak, people walked out on me. Further, they went on Twitter and denied me my agency by making assumptions about why I was there. None of them bothered to ask me that, of course. To them, I was reduced to an object. A prop. Someone to wipe out of their narrative. None of them bothered to ask me why I felt the need to stand up for this man. In fact, some of those very same people who denied me that agency then went on to praise me for ConTessa.

And that was just a TOUCH of what +Mandy Morbid experiences when it comes to supposedly progressive people objectifying and dismissing the experiences of those they don't understand.

You can't claim to be inclusive, then deny entrance to anyone who challenges your ideas. You can't claim to be intersectional, then deny entrance and attack sex workers because they make you uncomfortable. You can't claim to be a feminist, and then objectify and dismiss women who don't fit into your world view.

There are so many people that "harass" others in this community - on both sides of the "fence" - it's ultimately stupid to single out one guy as a "serial harasser" and claim that's why you need to hate him. I could level that accusation at so many people it's ridiculous.

So, you gotta wonder... what's so different about Zak that he gets this treatment and all the other guys who have done far far worse than defend themselves - guys (and girls) who have ACTUALLY said and done transphobic things, who ACTUALLY send rape and death threats and target gender and sex minorities?

He doesn't fit into the nerd mold. He's an extrovert, an unapologetic sex worker, an artist who doesn't give a fuck what everyone else thinks. He doesn't look, act, or sound like what we've come to know as "gamer". He doesn't back down from fights. He's direct. He doesn't let go (even when arguably maybe he should). And here's the biggest thing...

He's not afraid of the industry.

I've been counseled SO many times not to talk shit about other people in the industry if I want to be successful here. It's been made very very clear to me through some gestapo-like tactics that criticism of others is only allowed by the people at the very top. If you've been around long enough, have a cool enough license, look and act a certain way, or are friends with nerd celebrity, you can say whatever the fuck you want about anyone you want without any backlash whatsoever.

However, if you look different. If your career doesn't comply with "nerd", if you don't look and act like a nerd, and if you don't buy into an outdated form of activism that doesn't even begin to describe "woke", you are not allowed to speak up. Not without cruel and instantaneous retribution. You're not allowed to criticize. You're not allowed to track down every lie ever told about you and demand evidence. You're not allowed to fight back when you and the people you love are constantly degraded and treated like trash. You're just supposed to sit back and take it... and the biggest reason Zak is called out as a "harasser" is because he doesn't just sit there and take it.

But he doesn't do anything different than anyone attacking him. Strike that. I don't see Zak use personal attacks with anywhere near the frequency those attacking him do. He often attacks ideas, and I can see why people would react to that personally, but that doesn't mean it's personal.

Honestly, what Zak says is often far less incendiary than the people who start these arguments, and while I've witnessed a few personal attacks, I've never seen him wish someone he disagreed with dead. Or destroyed. Or any of the other violence-and-hate-filled attacks he's received. I understand why people might get frustrated. I understand why they might feel as if they've been harassed. I don't understand why they think they can take the high ground after spewing the most hateful shit I've ever seen on the internet in his direction.

This is a big deal to me because Zak walks the walk when it comes to inclusion - a walk many creators ignore unless they can take credit for it and doing so will pad their bottom line. When it comes down to deeds over rhetoric, Zak has made the gaming industry - especially the OSR end of the pool (a place most gaming activism fucking ignores) - MUCH more diverse. Thanks to Zak's constant message that anyone can create anything, DIY D&D is full of people of every race, nationality, religion, gender, and sexuality publishing unique content you won't find anywhere else. Every gaming table I've sat at with Zak - whether with him running or playing - has a delightful assortment of people of every age, shape, gender, sexuality, class, and type.

Deeds are important, so let's break down what Zak and Mandy have done for ConTessa and me on a very personal level:

- Helped with recruiting by spreading the word and directly referring us to people who might be interested in running games for us.

- Mandy put up our current GoFundMe under Zak's name since she can't use her own because of the way sex workers are treated. That initiative has brought in over half the money we need to get to Gen Con despite people swearing they won't help out ConTessa because Zak's my friend.

- Zak, Mandy, and other parts of the Axe crew have appeared in ConTessa panels, and have played in ConTessa games. They've used their celebrity to bring attention to us on more than one occasion because they believe in our mission.

- Has helped me find resources to fill gaps when people have been not-so-reliable for projects. When I was ready to quit, his response was, "Let me help you fix the problem.", not, "Aw, that sucks... too bad you couldn't cut it. Maybe you need someone holding your hand."

- Spent HOURS talking to me about art and layout, encouraging me not to make something "the OSR" would like or that he would like, but something that I would like. This is the most powerful message any designer can hear.

- Has been DIRECT when he talks to me about things, unafraid to tell me what he really thinks. Further, he doesn't balk when I'm direct right back like so many men do. This is part of why we can spend hours talking. I'm direct, too, and I often have both men and women back off because of that.

- Encouraged me to keep going even when I wanted to back down after everything that could go wrong went wrong. This is HUGE.

- Has been incredibly loyal and backed me up on every occasion I've been targeted by anyone on either side of the fence.

On the other hand, Zak's chief harassers have:

- Lied to me repeatedly. To my face. I'm not even going to go into the details of the lies as that will reveal too much. Suffice it to say these lies have cost ConTessa money, which lessens our ability to bring more inclusivity to conventions. It's also pissed me off.

- Have told me they would participate in programs aimed at making gaming more inclusive only if they could somehow gain money or exposure. I don't mind money and exposure being a side effect. I mind it being the whole reason.

- Spread baseless rumors and gossip behind my back, many of which were based on lies. Very damaging lies that I've had to spend countless hours walking back. Most of them I can't walk back because I'm not part of the conversation. It's a very abusive tactic to make sure the person you're attacking doesn't get a chance to defend themselves. It's also cowardly.

- Threatened lack of support and blacklisting if I didn't comply with their wishes. Literally, if I didn't add statements to our platform that I wasn't comfortable with adding, and if I didn't change ConTessa to be their idea of what the organization should be. Basically, people wanted me to spend all my time, money, and resources building something THEY would approve of with a big 'Or else' hanging over my head. I know a bully when I see one.

- Tweeted, and made blog and social media posts full of assumptions on what ConTessa is or is not, all of which are often demonstrably WRONG. Again, these are always done in ways where we aren't permitted in the space to defend ourselves at all, and without anyone asking for clarification.

- Walked out on me at the 2015 ENnies, then proceeded to tweet and post nasty things about who I am and why I was there, objectifying me and destroying my agency in the process.

- Donated nothing (or nearly nothing, there were a few donations in the beginning, but nothing for live conventions).

- Didn't even show up to run games. Many of them have even told me they don't have enough gender and sex minorities amongst their staff or people who run their games TO show up and run games.

If you know me, you know I'm sick of talking and more interested in boots on the ground. I'm tired of the same rhetoric spinning in the same circles. I'm sick of the same dozen or so mostly white middle class people speaking for diversity through the take-down format and acting like white saviors. I'm tired of progressives infighting over who's "woke" enough. I don't buy into it anymore. I put my head down and do the work.

So, when you see someone attacking someone else, ask yourself this...

Do they do the work?

Most of the people attacking Zak don't. They make assumptions. They talk behind people's backs. They criticize by calling people names and mocking them. They gossip. Oh God, do they gossip. They do things only when it supports their bottom line, which often looks a lot like exploitation (because it is), and they lie. A lot. Honestly, the thing that hurts me most about the lying is the assumption by the people doing the lying that I'm stupid enough not to spot it as a lie from a mile away.

If you want to know about Zak, if you want to know what kind of person he is, feel free to ask me. My email address is available publicly - stacy@contessa.rocks - I'd be happy to tell you all about my relationship with Zak, and why I think he's done so much to make this industry more inclusive.

I won't be responding to shit here, though... because I'm tired of getting harassed by all the people in this community who actually harass and constantly get away with it. 
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