The Alexis Kennedy Thing

If you're coming at this with no context, uh, hi? Also, start here, I suppose.

So judging from everything blowing up on the usual sources of discourse today, apparently Alexis Kennedy and his fiancee Lottie Bevan had their say on their company blog.

Kennedy's take was disappointing if not unexpected. "I'm a jerk who can't stop having relationships with people who work for me" isn't a really good look in the best of times. At least he didn't try to blame anyone else for what he did. So, points for basic human decency there!

However, he still doesn't quite get the problem with it, either - he insists "I never abused anyone" while describing the various people who depended on him for their livelihood that he indulged in office romances with. And you know, I'm sorry, working at a trendy indie studio doesn't excuse you, not being clear with your boundaries doesn't excuse you, and especially, uh, ending your relationship to strike up a new one with *another* woman who works for you isn't an excuse, it's a pattern.

And that is abuse. It's not literally rape, no. But it's abusive behavior. And that's just what he admits to, taking everything he's said as gospel truth; ignoring the tidal wave of coworkers and acquaintances who paint a less innocent picture.

But at least his defense of himself - "I'm a cad, but I'm no Harvey Weinstein" - wasn't as bad as Bevan's defense of him. Kennedy's was unfortunate, if grimly and wincingly understandable, the sort of thing that you hope the author revisits in a few years when they've grown and made amends. Bevan's is more, well, um.

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How to set your reputation on fire - Step 1: Write a blog post. (he wrote with no irony)

So, in one simple posting, Ms. Bevan manages to:

  • blame the incipient collapse of Kennedy and Bevan's company on his accusers
  • blaming Alex Kennedy's being almost driven to suicide on his accusers
  • blame Alec Holowka's suicide on his accusers
But I don’t think making people feel good or pretending you’re making a difference is justification for losing some women their jobs, nearly convincing a guy to top himself, or – in a separate, more serious case – actually convincing him to do it.
Secondly, someone’s called you a liar! That means anything you say is probably a lie.

Thirdly, people are happy to believe allegations against you even if you’ve behaved well in the past. The trope that abusers deliberately do good things to cover up their bad acts erases all the reputation you’ve built up over the years not being an asshole. By doing good stuff, you’re engaging in classic asshole behaviour, which only proves you’re more guilty than you were in the first place. There’s no ‘win’ here for an accused person: it’s immediately and irrevocably a fail state.
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Step 2: Agreeing with The Federalist on anything. Literally, anything at all. And they were at your wedding!
Ironically, the only absolute that seems to be true is that there are no absolutes. The world isn’t black and white. But one of the most common responses to a #metoo Twitter shaming is the rallying cry to ‘believe women’. One woman says one thing and she must, she must, be right. I look forward to #metoo revelations from Ivanka Trump.

‘Believe women’ only makes sense if you think – if you really, genuinely think – that women are perfect and could never be misinformed, make mistakes, or be vindictive. People subscribing to ‘believe women’ must not know a single woman in the history of their lives who has ever done something wrong. I’m a big ol’ feminist who runs (well, used to run) a bunch of well-intentioned women in games initiatives because women are amazing. But I know just as many flawed women as I do flawed men. ‘Believe women’ is a weird gender absolute that doesn’t engage with the real world and therefore doesn’t help.
Step 3: Check out entirely. yeah, OK, sure.
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I'd make snarky comments about going to HR here, but (a) they read my blog occasionally and (b) for larger companies, it really should be Step 1 in Doing Something About Annoying Person.

The whole piece is... well, if I wrote it, I would be justifiably flogged as a clueless man who doesn't know the first thing about what it feels like for women put in a situation where they find themselves under pressure romantically by someone they report to directly for their livelihood. Unlike Ms. Bevan.

Because, well, I am a clueless man who doesn't know the first thing about what it feels like for women put in situations such as these. However, I've talked to far too many women in our industry (and who fled our industry screaming as if they had been set on fire) who have put up with levels of harassment ranging from not being taken seriously for their work all the way up to violent rape. It's a wide spectrum of evil, and it needs to end, and it needs to end yesterday.

Would you like to know HOW to make it end? Simple. Hire women in positions of leadership at major AAA publishers where they are in the go/no-go seat of determining whether or not projects succeed. That's not a perfect panacea, but it's by-god Step One in making our industry less of a frat house party of the damned.

Does that do anything about indie studios? No. Indie studios exist apart from that, and they always will. But real structural change will happen where the money is, and real structural change is what needs to happen. At which point the horror stories we're hearing about from indie development houses will seem less "charmingly quirky" and more "object lessons in the need for adult supervision" and possible "reasons for civil or criminal action" in the worst cases. But for that to happen, the culture as a whole needs to change.

And until that happens, for god's sake, everyone, EVERYONE stop hitting on your coworkers. Please? Go outside? Something? I mean, really.