An open letter to the Populace and the Board of Directors of the Society for Creative Anachronism
Back to My Roots
When I started circa ’91, I was a young skate rat with a love of archery. My friends and I would lob arrows at each other in football fields, shoot targets, etc. My friend Cody Yarbrough introduced me to the SCA, “Hey there is a place we can camp and do archery all weekend!”. Are you kidding me? Parties and archery?! Im In! After a while, going to more events and meeting people, I discovered armored fighting, and even better, discovered combat archery (CA)! I did some research I finally save up some money to get a bow that could be used and began to practice. “Well I am going to need armor”, I thought and Cody took me to an evening armoring session/get together at someones house. Long story short, ALL of the fighters made it crystal clear that combat archery was not only unwelcome, but actively derided. By these very people. So I gave up. I attended events sporadically for a little longer, but these sentiments stuck with me. However I continued to party and have fun, so, ‘meh’. Ultimately I left.
Rediscovering the Old World
Playing Magic the Gathering one night a few/many years later, I was playing across from someone, Dante Kinney, who I considered a good person and friend, and thought to myself, “He just looks like someone who would be in the SCA”. Sure enough, the conversation turned to that and I was back in. However still wary from my first experience. He invited me to go to Pennsic with him. This was a lifetime dream my friends and I back in the day had never achieved, “100% YES!”.
Falling in With Good People
Man was I lucky. Not only was I lucky enough to go camping with a cool person, the people who he camped with was House Longbow. I was lucky and honored to be dropped right in the middle of some of THE BEST archers in the known world. Longbow was sisters with House Crossbow (collectively Bow-Bow), that sealed. it: THE BEST ARCHERS in the known world. Through their collective grace, honor, chivalric qualities and kindness. I grew as a person, as a member of the Society, and as an archer. I finally realized my love for combat archery. I became a marshal, teacher, mentor, student, leader, and so much more. They ALL accepted me with open arms and were almost all, my Peers. As time went on I discovered the entire community, archers, thrown weapons, equestrian, these were all open, caring, and amazing people. Nobody told me that my chosen path was wrong, they fostered my growth and helped me find my path. I cannot thank Bow-Bow, or the archery community enough. They were the guiding light that kept me in the Society as it got harder and harder to stay over the years. Being insulated was not a prophylactic, a wall was still being built.
Cracks in the Facade
As I was getting more involved in organizing and marshaling both target and CA, it became more and more clear, the SCA fighters and to some extent the surrounding communities, never lost their ego, snobbery, or self importance. Yes, yes… there are MANY who are good and amazing, and I’ll address that later. From word, deed and structure, in many ways it was clear I was still not welcome. This brought back the feelings I had the first go around.
“Prove it Dummy” – Fred Sanford
There are SO MANY examples, however I will share just a few. Not getting time in court to award prizes. Archery not being included in court at all. Having a Duke tell me to my face that, “archers aren’t worthy [of peerage]” and, “anyone can do archery, it doesn’t require skill and mastery like [rattan] weapons”. Not being allowed to use the field with our rattan brothers and sisters. Being omitted from field battles. MiCs attempting to not allow CA despite it being organized and advertised. Unrealistic restrictions not based on safety. Going to an Old School War Practice and having the ENTIRE GROUP of fighters groan as they saw me carry my crossbow while unpacking. The years of ‘jokes’, like, “here come the combat archers”. Fighters whining, “Plate Proof!” when they are not in fact, wearing plate. Generally fighters not taking blows at all. Archers being relegated to the far off pitches of the land, in some cases for safety reasons, but not always.
I shudder to think what others have endured. People who are more fragile, or who are the same as I was starting out in ’91. To be clear this is not about me, this is about others. I will speak to that directly later.
What made all of this worse is that the sentiment was so deeply engrained, that even good people sat back as small and large abuses occurred. Including myself. Being complacent with ‘this is just how it is’ and ‘Ill just go and do my thing and ignore the rest’. If we didnt call out and address bad behaviour, who would? Consistency in action and thought is important. It is how we build trust and relationships.
Is This Everyone Else’s Fault?
Part of this we brought on ourselves as communities. We could have called out bad behaviour. Demanded respect and recognition. Came together and shared experiences good and bad and fostered a healthier environment outside of our groups. We as communities were not the best at putting people in for recommendations or awards either. I have been guilty of this, I know others have been as well, but we could have all done better to ensure not just our friend groups got awards, but people who are not being noticed or included got recognized and appreciated. We could have been better advocates for our passions, and ensuring our ‘things’ happened. I wrote about this in this blog post. Ultimately we were owners of our own destiny, and we all failed those that follow us, but we did not falter in a vacuum. To those who didn’t feel safe to openly discuss the issue of the Omnibus Peerage, I’m sorry you were made to feel that way.
Thats Just the Way the Cookie Crumbles
Sadly everyone got complacent and comfortable with specific groups being outsiders to varying extent. I have never been ok with this. It is a fighting society and many continued to make it clear that what siege engineers and CAs did didn’t align with the conceptions of ‘fighting’. The problem being it was never about their perception. We were fighters whether they thought so or not. Snobbery and ego persisted. The pecking order clearly established. The organization is about the fighters. It started that way, and it will sadly stay that way.
BoDs support of systemic bias I often got asked why the BoDs inaction is so important. What a tiring question. It never was just about the Omnibus Proposal. The entirety of the culture that comes along with it. The Board is making it very plain that Peers in the Society are very important. Just not peers from those groups. The BoDs continued foot dragging, the ‘maybe laters’, ‘lets do another poll’, and ‘can you prove your participation numbers?’.
When has a Laurel in weaving ever been asked to prove participation numbers? Or scores? Is that what a Peer is about? No. A person is a Peer because of who and what they are. Yes there is criteria whether they admit it or not, checkboxes that need be ticked off… but ‘how many people at a given event are card weaving’ isn’t it.
People are Peers. Colum, Mika, Godai, Seamus and many others, too many to name really over the decades. They are archery Peers whether you like it or not. The BoD and the arrogant ego driven Dukes and Duchesses who support the continued inaction don’t see it that way. Their way of thinking is in part something like this, “Well there is no path to Peerage for archery, but you have done service for decades, so, How about a Pelican?!”. It is insulting. Not saying being a Pelican is insulting, to be clear: If they were given a Peerage for who and what they are, why their service exist, for being Masters in archery, AND they were given a Pelican for their service… that makes perfect sense. But to not even have a path institutionally to be recognized, only support the bias. In this way the BoD is only virtue signaling when they speak of equity.
Where My People At?
An Omnibus Peerage is not new. It already exists as the Laurel. They have figured out long ago how to asses candidates who are not in ones field. How to arrive at decisions, and who is deserving. Oddly enough, many people decrying this proposal, are the very ones enjoying an omnibus peerage! Other arguments such as adding a martial peerage will water down are reduce the pie is a BS excuse that holds no merit. More on that here.
I Got Mine, So Piss Off
I actively fought for the rapier community to get their peerage. Not quite understanding at the time how selfish and short sighted the idea was. The idea that each group need their own special club leaves a lot out. You can still have your tradition, your pomp and circumstance without leaving your brothers and sisters behind. The Chiv. already did that, and they will never let a combat archer in, despite it being in their charter. So they got theirs and the rest of you, “good luck with that!”. That said, I do not begrudge either their peerage. The Chiv was built on history and tradition. I fully respect that and hope they continue. Now the MoD has been created they too are building their history and tradition. Let’s get something straight, you are not better than anyone. You are a peer who was recognized for what you do. Thats a nice privilege you have there. It sure would be nice if everyone had it. But we understand, you’re too busy to help with that.
So, What Broke the Camels Back?
Planning to go to Pennsic. Arbitrary rules have been placed on us before. This year it was adjusting the shooting range to ‘clear-the-bow’ + 9′. There is no safety application here, I believe the fighters simply do not want us in their ranks. I always fight front lines, I am deadly accurate and effective second and third row. But there is a consistent theme here: Limiting combat archers to 12 shots in a scenario. Only allowing face shots. Restricting participation in field battles.
Combat archers pay for armor, build armor, hone skills, make weapons, research, give service, and pay just as much to attend an event as a rattan fighter does. Yes we were the ones expected to ‘sit one out’. Pole arms are never asked to sit one out, sword and board, nobody but siege and CA. Tournaments, bear pits, and more are one thing, but field battles?
So you’re Just gonna Take Your Ball and Go, Huh?
Um, yes! I have had many people tell me to do this. It is a little wild how openly hostile people can be when fighting for equity. I have heard people say this to others. For years I have had faith in a Society that prides itself on honor and service. I no longer have any illusions this will change. We needed to replace the Board en masse.
I spoke earlier about others, and it not being about me, and this is an important part of why I am officially leaving. I cannot continue to support or foster others growth in a system that will ultimately screw them over. It’s a bad and sometimes abusive relationship that I cannot in good faith promote others into. I mentioned earlier that I was insulated from a lot of the prevailing sentiment. How can I or others in good faith train archers, combat archers, or others into a group where they are, by policy, second class citizens? I will not expose new people to a group that is worst actively hostile, at best dismissive.
The Society has deemed Peers important, that same group has stated unequivocally that specific groups are not allowed that same recognition. If you cannot see the inconsistency there, you are part of the problem and I would hope you do a little soul searching as to why you are blinded to this.
The fact that so many communities would rather fight and quibble about a Martial Peerage rather than just support a PATH to recognition is disgraceful and goes against the essence of what this Society pretends to be about. Remember, all we are talking about is a Society support PATH to recognition. The Kingdoms can still happily tell their martial communities to collectively piss off. Each Kingdom would still have to deal with inherit bias, but at least the apparatus would be there. If a Crown wanted to elevate someone for who and what they are, they could!
Take a Seat Son…
I’m tired. I have tried for years to get respect for my brothers and sisters. I tried to be a good representative for people. Be the best mentor and teacher I could be. It will never be enough. One of the happiest moments as when I received my Yew Bow. I didn’t deserve it. The fact that my Peers that at least some in my community saw my worth, meant so much to me. It was a symbol of growth and acceptance. I was being recognized by people I respected.
I would not have accepted Peerage as a Laurel or Pelican if it were offered. Let me be super clear, there are MANY people ahead of me in that department. I don’t deserve it as I understand the PLQs. But if offered, I would have declined. I would urge anyone approached to join these ranks, decline. Until all of our brothers and sisters can be recognized, none of you should. Remember, I didn’t make peerage a big deal, the Society did. As very specific communities continuously watch others get recognized for who and what they are, these communities sit and cheer for their new Peers. They are deserving! But our groups are not. I can’t sit back and watch people I know, respect, and love be passed over or insulted any longer.
Turn the Lights Off
I have so many good memories and I will miss a great many of you. It is truly with a heavy heart that I accept the reality of this abusive relationship and walk away. They ALL of their respective martial groups deserve a chance and path for recognition.
I will continue to teach, shoot, and follow ‘medieval pursuits’. Please feel free to reach out to me, let’s geek out about Near Eastern culture and music, or archery. I have armor still and I gotta use it somewhere!
Though I walk over that threshold, make no mistake, the Society is closing the door on me and bolting the door as it has on many others.
“Now where is that Al Jazari water piston I need to finish…”