I’m afraid I have to join the ranks of award winners. I never set out to be an award winner, it just happened. Quietly at first, as a part of my supposed contribution to the table-top RPG scene in Sweden, but louder as the years have passed.
I was awarded the RPG-dragon – Rollspelsdraken – by the forum rollspel.nu, also known as WRNU in 2015. After that, I was awarded “Best Article” in the Swedish gaming magazine Fenix. This was also in 2015. In 2016, I was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Skövde, an honor that left me speechless. I did not expect it. Again, it was for my supposed contribution towards a more equal and diverse gaming culture. I was awarded “Best Writer” by Fenix as well. Not for anything in particular. Just for what I had been doing.
In 2017, I got the “Gamer of the Year” award from Sverok, the Swedish national organization for gaming and table-top RPGs. Again, because of what I’ve been doing in the past. Not shutting up. Not sitting down, not endlessly taking the inequalities for gaming for granted.
So yeah, I’ve joined the ranks of award winners. The reason I write this is because a friend asked me “so what’s next?” as if this was something I’d planned. As if, one morning in 2015, I woke up and said to myself “I think I’ll win some awards”. That certainly never happened. Nor did, or do I, plan for any more honors. I am deeply grateful for the attention, and at the same time terrified.
I’m honored that my struggle has been seen, finally, and appreciated for what it is – an attempt to improve the culure around us. I’m also on occasion sad that I’m the only one named. I stand among many others who have tried and fought just as hard as I have to change the gaming culture and industry.
All of the people involved with the project SuperMarit. Elisabeth Tégner who started up FutureGames. My friend Bea who was part of Change Maker and hired me to talk at their gaming program. Jenny Brusk at the University of Skövde, a true pioneer and a good friend. Ann-Sofie Sydow, a staunch supporter and the passionate force behind the Game Assembly. Linda Kiby-Zetterman, Jenny Hellström, Susan Holman, Jessica Källman, Alisa Nylund, Stephanie Charj, Helena Kjörling, Tove Bengtsson, Malin Castegren, Ina Bäckström, Sanna Valapuro, so many women. Pernilla Alexandersson, Jenny Carlsson. So many more I can’t remember the names of – not because I have forgotten them, but because my memory for names suck.
I have this habit when I’m stressed, something I blame my friend Bea for. I read trashy romance novels when I can’t sleep. I read one recently about a woman editor in the early 1900’s. She was a suffragette, of course, and she had this conversation with her romantic love interest. He said “men will always tear you down, you’re trying to empty the Thames with thimbles”. She answered something to the effect of “yes, but I’m not doing this for the men. I’m doing it for the women. And each one of those thimblefuls are used to grow a garden”. And yes, I know, it’s a thimbleful of water at a time. But we’re doing it, and we’re doing it together.
My point is, is that without them I am nothing. The women above, the women all around me that try to do the same thing – they’re the reason I’ve won all these awards. Without them I might as well be shouting into an abyss.
Weirdly enough I have even less memory for names of the dudes who – I want to say opposed, but it’s a strong word – were sceptical of my ideas. Our ideas. The ideas of women in general. The idea that women deserve to be seen as human beings, that we have a right to play, that we have a right to participate without being told to “go make a sammich” or worse (mostly worse).
I can’t remember the names of the guys because at one point it felt like all of them.
I lived a life of constant dismissal. My ideas, our ideas, women’s ideas of equality were dismissed as nonsense and untruths. Pity parties. Apparently our skin wasn’t tough enough to deal with gaming culture.
In all this din and noise, there were those who stood up for me, for us, but I can count them on the fingers of one hand, and still have plenty of fingers left over. Christoffer Krämer, Henrik Örnebring. Later there were others. Thomas Arnroth among them.
But at the start, all I had were people I looked up to who dismissed me. People I admired who disrespected me, told me I was stupid, that I had no idea what I was talking about. Live through that total dismissal – for YEARS – and try telling yourself your ideas have merit, I dare you.
Anyway, I never did any of the things I did to get awarded for them. I did it for survival, in order to stay alive in the industry, and because I saw women around me, women who were prettier than me, get treated even worse.
I’m paraphrasing Lotta Lotass from an interview regarding a high profile individual with ties to the Swedish Academy when I say “thank God I was never pretty, so I didn’t have to live through sexual harassment as well”.
It’s different for beautiful women. It’s different for ugly women. But it’s always a disadvantage to be a woman.
So “what’s next?” my friend asked me, surely not to be in any way rude or imply that I don’t deserve what I’ve gotten. But still. “What’s next?”. In the wake of #metoo there’s been so much I want to write about, but the awards weigh heavy. I have a younger, angrier, more energetic me to live up to and now I’m afraid because people are watching. And I should give room to those who are still voiceless. I should enhance their voices and give them a platform, like Tove did for me.
Life is complex, and I never ever, ever want to be one of the people that dismiss or disbelieve. I know there are people out there, fighting the same battle I do, or worse. I never want to dismiss those people. They have a right to be heard, them too.
So what’s next?
I continue. The awards have never been a goal. They’re nice and I’m deeply honoured by them, but they were never a part of why I do this, and they never can be. Valuing things above people is never a good idea. Treating people as things – as Terry Pratchett said through Granny Weatherwax – that’s where evil starts.
Seeing women – everyone really – as people. That’s where evil ends.