Hot! Ask A Reenactor: Bullying in the Hobby

Given that bullying has been making some significant headlines recently, I figured that now was a good time to bring up this concerning message I received from one of my readers:

There’s a reenacting group who I use to be associated with kind of. I had several friends in the group and I liked hanging out with them. Until I learned they were making fun of me. Making fun of what I looked like and making fun of my boyfriend. We left the group and still reenact but the group makes me uncomfortable and now someone from the group (who I have no idea if was involved in any of this) is trying to add me again on facebook. How do I handle this?

Indirect bullying is one of the elephants in the room in the reenacting hobby.  Though it is extremely rare to be confronted about something to your face, many reenactors have faced name calling and finger pointing behind their back. Generally, but not always, this is done in the name of shaming a farb.  Not only is that a disgusting habit for an adult to indulge in, it’s also completely ineffective at getting people to raise the authenticity of their impression.

Reenactors do have a reputation for being snippy, elitist, and harsh on those who don’t measure up to their standards, and I think that this attitude needs to change if we are to recruit new, young members to our units.  Being elitist is different from having standards – one is an attitude, the other is a protocol.  The prospective reenactors that I’ve talked to through both this site and Daily Reenactor are all interested in being in units with high authenticity standards, but they have been turned off by the perceived elitism that they have encountered while trying to find such units.

Look at it this way – what good does it do to point a finger behind someone’s back?  The only purpose it serves is to make the pointer feel superior, to feel better about themselves.  It certainly doesn’t help the farb improve his or her impression, as they’re not just getting a lack of feedback about their impression, they aren’t even aware that the teasing is going on (and if they are, such as the original questioner was, it can be very hurtful and incline people toward leaving the hobby).

The next time you feel inclined toward making fun of someone at an event or in someone’s photos, pause a moment and think about just why you feel that you need to make fun of them.  If it’s just about you feeling better about yourself, maybe you should look into improving your self-worth instead of taking away someone else’s.  If you genuinely are concerned about someone’s impression, try to talk to them about it, in a non-confrontational way.  Help them see the light by opening the door to a better impression, rather than thumbing your nose at them from behind the window.  Before you make fun of someone for the way they look, the way they act, or even their opinions…think to yourself, “Is this the way I want people to think of reenactors?”.  If the answer is no, then don’t do it – such actions shame upon the hobby for all of us.

[Note: my use of the word "farb" is meant in a non-insulting way.  The only reason I used it here is that it is a commonly-used term in the hobby and there isn't really a short, easy way to say "person or item or action or thing that is generally inauthentic or incorrect".]

To the original questioner:

I’m sorry that you’ve had to deal with such individuals while participating in this wonderful hobby, and I hope that you will continue to reenact.  Unfortunately, such behavior is fairly common in the hobby, so my best advice is to learn to steel yourself against it for now, and to call out those whose actions are, shall we say, less than adult.  If your old unit is making fun of you in a malicious way, let other reenactors know that.  Let that unit become known as one that bullies its own members, and eventually, their numbers will dwindle. As for the moment, I would disassociate yourself from them as much as possible, and definitely don’t friend any of them on Facebook or other social media.  Avoid them at events when at all possible, and take solace in the fact that you seem to have found a better group now.  Success is the best revenge, so enjoy your new unit, have an awesome time at events, and generally just do a good job of showing them how much happier you are without them.  Eventually, bullies go away when they realize their barbs don’t stick anymore.

To my readers:  If you have had any personal experiences with bullying in the reenacting hobby, please please please talk about it in the comments, as I think that this is a problem that people need to realize is quite widespread.  If you also have any other advice for the original questioner, please let her know in the comments.

168 Comments

  1. This has happened to me, and it was a very sad time in my life. It made me quit doing Civil War altogether and start WW2 instead. I had founded a civilian Civil War group in 1995 with 4 other friends. By the time 2003 rolled around this group had 50 members on paper, 30 active members, and a stellar reputation of being the best group in the mid-Atlantic. The board (of which I was one) turned against me for some unknown reason, left me out of emails and refused to communicate with me. Before I know it I heard rumors that I was being called horrible names behind my back. They accused me of stealing from the group and audited my treasury accounts (they found nothing.) So basically, they bullied me out of the hobby. I said “Good riddance” as I did not need friends like these, and switched wars with a friend from that group. I met new people who are not shallow and self-important. That experience left me feeling sick and disgusted with those reenactors, especially since I had worked so hard to build a quality group for people to learn and have fun. Guess it wasn’t as quality as I thought.

  2. I have seen Bullying in the hobby first hand. Members from my group were having pictures of them posted on “we heart farbs” facebook sites, and made fun of for their clothing, which was all documented and PERFECT. But, because these people didn’t have the documentation themselves, they assumed the clothes were all wrong, and decided it was important to make fun of my friends. The arguments were rather intense, though lame because they were done through Facebook, MYSPACE, Yahoo Groups, and E-mail. I don’t think there was ever a face to face confrontation. It’s easier to poke fun at others via the internet, as you don’t have to worry about getting punched in the face after being a tool to others.

    When the “progressive vs. mainstream vs. farb” issue was at it’s highest point, nobody was safe from being made fun of. Kids, women, elderly, the over weight, kids with mental issues, you name it, these people would go after you. It seriously hurt reenacting as a welcoming place for everyone to learn and grow and work together for the better of history.

    I think that once we as a reenacting community handle the fact that there will always be someone dressed BETTER and WORSE than us, the happier we’ll be. I feel over the last year or two the bullying has gone down, and people are most likely to help each other, rather than take shots over the internet. However, if there is a bad egg out there, he/she usually will get called out, and his/her group isn’t invited to events. Which kills the whole reason to do reenacting anyways. I don’t think anyone really does research and spends hours making clothes just to walk around their house.

  3. Well, I’m hoping this comment is super anonymous! Long story short, I was always in an original unit. My boyfriend joined the other unit and he and a lot of my friends were there. So naturally, I went back and forth to hang out with both units. I wanted to be with my boyfriend and friends. Until I found out they were making comments at me for wanting to join WW2 reenacting with my boyfriend. Their unit commander (?)told me “He always wanted to reenact a child molester” to my response of wanting to try out WW2 reenacting as a photographer or something.

    I later found out to a still loyal friend in that other unit, that they use to call my boyfriend and I really harsh names. “Genitalia nazi f*g” was one of them I remember. All I know is that they made fun of my lips for some reason beyond me.

    My boyfriend and I are both now in my “original unit” but its kind of hard to avoid other unit because they’re near by sometimes. My boyfriend still tries to go over to talk to loyal friend and they tell my BF that the friend isn’t in camp. In reality, the friend was in the food tent, he was told to stay there because my boyfriend was outside near by. They think him and I are actually… stupid.

    Last event I wore some modern clothes at times due to heat. I had heard that people were making fun of me for what I was wearing. Calling me skinny or sl*tty or something like that. I made sure it wasn’t people in my unit because they are my family and I could only conclude that it was the other unit, because they had come by our camp the night before and were near by.

    • Hi! I was curious, did you ever go up to the people that were allegedly saying this horrible things and confront them about it? I know it might be hard, but if you show a strength of will, I know sometimes that hearsay information isn’t always correct. Also, if they admit to it, you’ll know they were horrible people and feel better that you are away from such creeps. You have to wonder why this “loyal friend” is still hanging out with a group of such terrible people if all that he stated they said is true. You might want to confront your friend on that as well.

      And I very much agree with your other comment – commenting on a person’s kit is one thing, calling them outright names is another.

  4. The worst part is that this situation has NOTHING to do with farbness, or my impression or anything reenacting related. Heck, if it was, I probably wouldn’t be upset. But pure random name calling and hate is just… I dont know.

  5. My wife and kids left the hobby after the ladies in the group became cliquey, and started talking behind her back and marginalizing her and the kids. It made it very hard for me, because I still enjoyed the camaraderie of the guys. We even broached the subject to the Captain, which was embarrassing and difficult, and he sent out a general email about civility. Those who attended every event and lived near one another developed a relationship that excluded others, with inside jokes and stories used to push others out. I feel guilty when I want to do something with the unit, because my wife and kids were treated so poorly.

    • This is one of the reasons I tend to avoid units with a large female contingent – they tend to get very catty, very fast. I have been in units where it worked, but they are few and far between. I just want to be left to do my thing, and that seems too much to ask sometimes.

      • Kelsey, I completely agree. I don’t know why women can be so shallow. I have been content ever since my horrible experience to be an “independent” and do things on my own. I make female friends, but it seems like if they get too close to you they end up stabbing you in the back? Why?

        • Just an imho, it’s not as much of a gendered phenomenon as you’d expect. The worst person I ever had to deal with for passive-aggressive behind-the-back sh!t-talking and trouble-making was a dude. An older dude who our group later found out was infamous for that sort of thing.
          Casting bullying and catty shallowness as female problems only serves to reinforce the negative stereotypes of female reenactors, the reluctance of groups to accept female members, and the misogynistic ambience that it gives the whole hobby. It really turns off people in similar hobbies looking to branch out into other eras or more historic impressions.

          • I never said that they were female problems only, I simply said that my personal experiences have been worse and more numerous with women (though I’ve had my fair share of issues with men as well) in the hobby, and thus I tend to avoid female-heavy groups.

      • Agreed. This cattiness runs across gender lines, but I’ve seen it more with women than men. I try to find small, progressive groups where my daughter and I are both welcome (my husband does NOT do living history, and that is FINE by me). I can only handle so much drama in my life.

  6. Tommy hit the nail right on the head.

    I have been a reenactor since I was born (ie 27 years) and I continually find it absolutely disgusting at the way people treat each other. It has certainly cost me “friendships” in the hobby because either I could feel the elitist eyes burning a hole into the back of my head because they don’t like my shoes that day or ::GASP:: “That woman is dressed up as a man, what a farb!” I’ve been in this hobby far longer than you and ENJOY spending time with people that love history as much as I do. I do it because I love it.

    The quiet frantic whispers and the busy little bees who pretend they’re helping others are by far the most infuriating thing to me to the hobby. Sure, they’ll help if you can pay and gossip as much as they do. My mother is a professional seamstress and makes probably the most affordable, custom, historically “accurate” (the seams you can’t see are machine sewn, which isn’t enough for some people) and she gets ridiculed by these “stitch and b*tch” people for as long as I can remember. I take so much inspiration from her because she’s never let it get to her. She’s been trying to groom me to follow her into the business (which is hard because I’ve got a big mouth and WILL tell people off who are being scumbags). I don’t know that I could let it all roll off my shoulders like she does.

    In the end. It’s ABSURD that this bullying even occurs at ANY reenactment. You are NEVER going to be completely accurate, no matter how many lean-to “hardcore” tents you build (because I’m pretty sure you didn’t milk the cow for the cheese your eating or snap the neck of that chicken you’re cooking, or harvest and bake the bread you’re snacking on).

    And finally. Why? It pushes people away. And do they really want to have a battle and living history reenactment with only their elitist 6 friends who live up to their ideals? Eh, knock yourself out. I’ll have fun with all of my friends on the big battle fields with the big public crowds and doing what I love… Teaching the general public about the history of this country.

    ::gets off soap-box:: Hehe, Thanks!

  7. Kelsey, I wanted to thank you for discussing this topic. I was a vendor for more than a decade at one of the largest reenactment festivals in the mid-west. While my husband and I were on the sidelines and not victims of bullying, many of our friends and acquaintances, who are reenactors, were. This childish behavior fostered terrible contempt and resentment among acting members and created warring factions between various reenacting groups. There needs to be accountability here and people’s behaviors need checked – bullying in any venue is unacceptable, as you would agree. I do hope that others read your article and have the courage to put these reenacting bullies in their places – like out on their derrières!

    • I’m hoping that this brings this issue out in the open and encourages reenactors to think about their behavior. We’re portraying a more civilized era, and we should embrace that!

  8. people can be so hurtful and full of themselves ! As an Adult I believe I have one person to govern and that is myself ! I am not the reenacting police ! No one is ! I worry about me ! Simple concept ! I talk about no one ! I have live thru that B.S. and grown as a person. If I dont like someone I stay away from them… and likewise everyone else has the same choice ! Easy huh ?

  9. I too have been subjected to bullying in the hobby. Not just in World War 2 but in Rev War. I Can’t go into dizzying detail about what me and my better half have suffered. We’ve been called names behind our backs, had rumors spread about us and been told that we’re called rather colorful but nasty things. That’s just in rev War. The cliques, the individuals who harbor jealousy and disdain for others are problem because if we get new recruits and they start hearing how bad this person is when they themselves (the recruit) don’t even know them… You get my picture. The headache, heartache and hassle it is sometimes to be in this hobby almost makes me want to quit it sometimes because people don’t know how to mind their own business, keep their mouths closed and just say “Hey, your impression looks like it needs some work, let me see if I can help.” instead of “Yeah that guy over there looks like an f’ing toolbag, look at him he looks so stupid.”. We’ve all heard it. Of course I’m not naive, where there’s testosterone, there’s competition, jealousy and high-running emotions. If we could all at least mind our own business or ATTEMPT to be pleasent… shit would go a long way. Instead, some individuals decide to be total finks and jive turkey’s. People have already said what I was going to say.

  10. Online group (yahoo groups, facebook, etc) bullying is very common, especially when new people to the hobby are asking questions and trying to get correct information. You ask a question, then they proceed to tell you why it will be wrong (fine, that’s what new folks need to know). But then, suddenly, the discussion turns to a week long back and forth of ripping others apart for what they do that you wonder why the heck you even bother to ask a simple question. There was once a week long rant over elitists and who they were and why, and those pointing fingers were the same four people that rip other people apart at the seams day in and day out. Thankfully, I belong to a nice group who will guide you, not criticize you and won’t snub their noses at you. Honestly, you wonder why numbers are declining? Look in the mirror.

    • Yes. I found it hilarious that in the discussion this past week on RevList about why our numbers are declining, all the blame got placed on the prospective reenactors and none on the extant groups and their bad behavior, lack of publicity, etc. As long as everyone thinks that they’re doing everything right, nobody is going to improve anything.

    • Have you ever been on Frontier Folks???? a number of folks have left that forum for the reason you state…….I recently was threatened with an OR ELSE comment for posting something for sale in the Trading Post…..I am sure they are lurkers here too….which we will soon discover……these are also the same people who find it amusing to clandestinely photograph people from the south who have a mullet….

  11. I’ve had to deal with the opposite, quite a lot. One particularly aggregious time was when we were showing a new garment, done in an unusual style, complete with the documentation as to why….and I was met with derision. Someone said, in a voice dripping with scorn, “oh, new research”. That was often the attitude I saw, a group of people wanted no part in change and were quite unpleasant to those who were doing the research.

    This is appalling enough, but it also involves name calling….many of these people call those who do research “stitch countting Nazis”. Thus killing two birds with one stone (perhaps inadvertently, but careless disrespect is still bad), showing disrespect to all peoples undergoing genocide, as well as the people interested in accuracy and research!

  12. This has been happening to me for over a year now. The worst part it – I have no idea what I have done to apparently cause such an issue with myself and a number of people. I have been informed BY PEOPLE I DO NOT EVEN KNOW that “I have said something to piss off a lot of re-enactors, I am a know-it-all, and my sewing skills and clothing interpretation are laughable.”

    I make every attempt for the most part, to research to DEATH everything I do, using extant garments, fashion plates, whatever else. This, however; is not the point. The point is I have made an attempt to make amends, and to understand where I supposedly went wrong – I take great care to think about things I say when I am asked a question so that I do not come off as a know-it-all and have for AGES.

    These people have had great success in making me utterly miserable, causing many a crying fit and a vow to never re-enact or sew again. Sewing has been my LIFE; the one thing I take complete and utter pride in, it is my love and passion as is historical fashion, and I work tirelessly on the things I create. I have given no fodder to these people, and given them no reason to attack me yet still I have found out about the cruel things they have said by friends and complete strangers; who choose to be my enemies and dislike me without ever having said one word to me in their entire lives, or having laid eyes on me.

    I really have no idea what to do at this point, and it has caused me a vast amount of issues. I try very hard to be above it and to carry on and not let it phase me, by I confess, it truly does bother me, and it breaks my heart completely.

    This same group of people who have been so cruel to me, have also made a number of my friends lives miserable, and they seem to make it a habit and a hobby of cruelly excluding people for trivial reasons, and making up mean rumors to go with them.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that this has happened to you. :( It’s awful. And really, my rant was sortof the other side of the fence but there’s no reason people should bully you for doing your research! Colleen made a post about it too (I’m pretty sure I know her) and she painstakingly researches EVERYTHING. And I absolutely commend her, and you on all your hard work and effort.
      It goes to show you that the bullying can go both ways and that’s a damn shame.

      In the meantime, maybe you should shop around for a new reenacting group and late the haters-hate your amazing research and sewing skills. Kill ‘em with kindness? :-\

    • To be honest, if you are who your name and writing style suggest you are, you’ve done your fair share of nasty behavior. I seem to recall a protracted rant against “American DUH-chess” in which you made a lot of allegations that didn’t seem to have anything to do with reality – such as that she didn’t know what stays were and that she made a pile of new costumes while you were waiting for her to finish yours.

      This is the sort of thing that makes me unable to take all the claims that totally blameless, 100% accurate people just get mysteriously dumped on completely seriously. Pretty much everyone in any given situation think they’re the innocent, injured party. I’ve seen plenty of people in life and on the internet justify or not notice their own poor behavior while being hurt at the way others treat them because of it; I’ve also seen plenty of people insist that they’re completely accurate when they’re hanging everything on old research and re-enactorisms. It’s impossible to get a clear picture of a situation without hearing both sides of a story.

  13. Weird enough, I have never been bullied over my impression (revolutionary war), but I have been bullied over my choice not to drink alcohol. My group tried to sneak alcohol into the meals, like hard cider in the pot with the chicken. I just avoided those dishes. Once I brought some salmon and someone poured alcohol over it – after it was cooked. I threw the whole thing away. These are adults! I absolutely don’t understand this behavior. They seem to look for reasons to ostracize others, whether it be their impression or their personal choices that are different than the majority of the group.

    • Marc and I run into this problem quite a bit. Marc is in recovery and has been sober for 18 months, and I tend to be a 1-2 drinks per night kinda girl. We’ve gotten so tired of being pressured to drink, and then being made fun of when we don’t, that we tend to just go to bed early and avoid the campfire circles that we used to enjoy so much. It’s sad, and it’s bizarre to see “grown ups” pushing alcohol on a recovering alcoholic.

      • Dislike, Kelsey. Dislike very much. :-(

        • We’ve never had an issue in any of the units we personally belong to, but it happens quite frequently when visiting other camps.

          • Note to self re: Dietary concerns for you two; make sure there’s sauce w/o sauce.

            I’m vaguely horrified this is even an issue. You want to avoid alcohol, I can’t see the sense in pressing it on you. Some people’s kids…

            Congratulations to Marc, BTW.

    • I keep wanting to write a reply to this and really, all I can say, is I’m completely aghast that anyone would think it’s funny to sneak something into someone else’s food. Given my food allergies, I’m particularly sensitive to the issue, true, but I can’t imagine anyone doing something like that. I’m so sorry this has happened to you.

  14. I am sadden repeatedly by the bullying I see at any event where everyone is trying to add to the program the best way they can with the resources they have. No one is perfect. The cattiness of ‘women’ in the group can be quite demeaning and very destructive and it is this very negativity that creates a bad taste in the men folks mouth about having women in ‘camp’. With that said, the people in charge of the program should take more leadership and spell out what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Just sending out an email is not dealing with the challenge of creating a community that works to achieve the mission and vision of the program. I no longer do official re-enactment programs because I do not have the time as I use to but I want to encourage all of you not to give in to the hate and stupidity of those in a small pond who think they are the big fish. Best wishes in your future endeavors. Thank you Kelsey for bringing this to the fore front. It needs to be talked about and resolved as there is so much talent to be tapped into. Cheers.

  15. Unfortunately, bullying exists in the real world and even though we would like to say we’re transported by time, we’re still in the real world. The real world had bullying in the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, too.

    I am not saying this to belittle the boorishness of the bullies or the sting of their cruel comments. I do believe that many, myself included, feel the jabs of criticism and bullying more because of our own insecurity in spite of our declarations that we feel more at home in the past than the present. Unfortunately, the way many people deal with their own insecurity is to level an attack on someone else to deflect the assault. I usually pity the bully- hate him, but pity him, too.

    I find the greatest bully to be the one who declares, “It just ought to be that way.” When said with enough conviction, few challenge the hollowness or lack of proof in the statement.

    We do need more constructive and less destructive behaviors in the hobby. There are times we need to take ourselves and others more seriously, and times when we need to take each other with a grain of salt…non-iodized unless you are portraying the post-Morton salt 1924 introduction era. No one knows it all, but many seem to crave the powers, but not the name, of a Know-It-All.

    I have found, for myself at least, that actually practicing the trades of the time, or presenting the life skills of the era, does more to frame my reference and focus my attention on meaningful authenticity. Even today, when people don’t have anything to do, they often feel awkward. When I construct a tin piece using the materials, tools, techniques, and limitations of the time period, I gain authenticity and understanding. As a result, my personal satisfaction, while open to invited review and constructive criticism, can withstand more negative comments because I am more confident in my level of development.

  16. Re-enactment groups are just like any other group of people. They have faults and bad habits.

    A person should attempt to find a group or found a group with like values. I know, easier said than done. LOL

    AS to correctness is dress, I find the best outfitted groups have a governing board on standards and all must comply if they want to play. No whiners allowed. You want to play then you follow the rules whether it is black powder regs or uniform standards. Set rules, which are followed, seem to diminish the pettiness to some degree.

    It is too bad that some people feel they can send emails or announce to others in a public setting that a certain person or family is NOT up their OWN high standards and that the “offenders” must somehow be shamed into performance of a higher standard. This is so BAD!

    I have seen people not allowed to join a unit because they have bi-racial kids. And THIS was in a Northern unit. And the reason was the stupid phrase: NOT A GOOD FIT FOR OUR GROUP.

    I have seen Northerners dismissed by a Southern unit because the group did not think they would fit in with all the “red-necks” and “good old boys” in their organization. Their words not mine.

    All in all I have seen just about every type of rude, racist and stupid comment made to keep people OUT of a unit in the re-enactment hobby just as I have seen in several non re-enactment social groups.

    People are just NOT being nice and playing well with others all over the planet. What a pity.

  17. I love reenacting for so many reasons. Not only a hobby that allows me to immerse myself in a history I enjoy and love, it allows me to prove to my self many thing. I do WWII reenactments, (Soviet) and for the most part the unit has been WONDERFUL to me and treat me like a little sister. But as some people know, reenacting can be seen as a boys club hobby. For a lot of people, if you prove your self (that you are enthusiastic about the history and embrace the immersion) you are good.
    Sadly this boy’s club idea has effect my reenacting experience. I guess some guys only think that girl that reenact only come to find a boyfriend or a hook up. This is not all. I’ve just been told personally they are impressed that I’m not the ‘reenactor girl friend.’ Sadly one member of my unit, did not understand this. Over all I don’t agree with many of the things he posts on facebook, (which are usually racist and misogynistic) but since our unit relies on facebook as the main means of communication I added him as a friend. He took advantage of this, and decided to get wasted and sexually harass me via facebook. When he sobered up and he tried to talk to me again I told him I wasn’t comfortable with what he said, in which he responded, ” I should take it as a compliment.” I told him that I can’t accept that, and I will act civilly to him at events, but I can no longer be friends with him via facebook. So I defriend him.
    Until recently. Even though I told the unit captain about this issue, he promoted him as well as me. So we both have to talk to one another. I had to re add him on facebook. He hasn’t harassed me in a sexual sense, but has made some off putting comments on my facebook, which I deleted and told him why I deleted.
    Over all I feel like some times reenactors find it easier to make fun of women since you don’t see very many women in the hobby.

  18. I can’t address to any extent what men who reenact say to, and about, each other. But for many women, research, costuming, and sewing provides a platform for continually competing about appearance (clothes, accessories, hairstyles) and income (how much money is spent). It’s just like junior high, with all the in-groups, catty comments (whether to someone’s face or behind their back), bitchy put-down sessions, trying to put everyone on the spot about “documentation,” and trying to order people around as to what to buy and where, and/or what to make, and/or what to spend. The ones who are ostensibly being helpful are just doing the same thing. People do not seem to have the concept that other people’s appearance are none of their business. And the same people conveniently ignore all the non-clothing aspects of earlier periods that they cannot carry out. For example, before the age of radio and especially TV, middle- and upper-class women routinely learned to play the piano, to sing, to dance, and to draw. Sewing and needlework are not the be-all and end-all. I wouldn’t put down the myriad of reenactors who can’t dance (or who can just barely lumber through a waltz), except the same ones are trying to put down everyone for not being able to hand sew neatly and rattle off umpteen book titles from memory when suddenly confronted with a public demand for “documentation.”

  19. I consider myself a costumer and not a reenacter. When I started out 7 or so years ago, that wasnt my intention though. I had been reading dress diaries and websites about wearing and making historical clothing and was completely in love! But didnt know where to start, what group if any to join, or what was required of me. I found a local civil war group and decided to go to one of their civilian meetings and play dress up. I met the civilian leader of the group, who invited me to join her in classes that she was planning for the other members. I met with her many times, and got tp know her rether well, I thought. I thought we got along for the most part, and that she was happy to have me in the group. Although there were some sticking points. Those points i thought were small and really silly, because why would me being a Democrate or a person of interracial herotage have anything to do with my sewing skills or if I could bake a deciant loaf of bread?!?! Quite a lot I guess… The leaders of the group as well as most of its members are strsnge Tea Partiers, so when Obama won the election it was a very bad day. Just prior to that, the civilian leader was asking me to think seriously anout using my ethnic heritage in my persona. This had no appeal to me. Slavery is a dark and saf thing and not something that I want to delve into. When I dress up, I want to have a good time with my friends. I dont want to be downtrodden. Thats so not fun, sorry but no. So she was kinda pissy anout that because i think she thought having a freed slave in her group would be a real feather in her cap. When Obama won, and I was happy, she told me not the brag about that because it wasnt something she was proud of for her country… Yah. That happened. Later that month she sent me an email making me aware that at the next reenactment that there would be minstrials dressed in “Black Face”. Even when i write it out here… Its been 4 years ago now, it still makes me so ticked! I quit the group.

    I feel like because of my ethnicity and political views I was run out of a hobby that i would have teally loved to participate in. Now I only do costuming. I attend Cons of all types and have brodened my scope of historical costume. I still attened the local reenactment because i do have friends that I enjoy seeing there. But the overall ignorace of the “Reenactment” scene is appauling to me. The sexism, exclusion, racism, and general bullying that I saw personally really turned me off from reenactment.

    **sorry for any typos, im using my phone for this!**

  20. At a RevWar event as an onlooker, I spoke with one female reenactor about my interest in her group. She looked at me askance and shut me down by telling me I wasn’t in good enough shape to join her group. No encouragement at all. I still haven’t found a group yet.

    As far as farbyism goes, I want to be as authentic as I can afford to be at any given time. This is not a cheap hobby and I don’t think people should have to wait until they have every iota of their impression down perfect. Everyone has to start somewhere in the hobby and I think certain allowances should be made.

    In putting together an outfit I’ve avoided certain obvious farbyisms — no sleeveless bodices, no zippers, no shower cap style “mob cap”, no obviously modern fabrics, and similar obvious things. But after getting my gown, I did research and found that the cloth pattern is about 30 years too modern, but I don’t think that should be enough to keep me out. I probably should have got something in a solid fabric, but this is what I have and the pattern really would not look “off”, except to an expert. Nor do I think the fact I cannot yet afford a pair of stays or repro shoes (after all, my gown is long enough to cover that up) should bar me. I purposely went with a full length gown, knowing it would be awhile before I could afford shoes, instead of an ankle length petticoat. I think I did pretty well with my outfit with my very limited income. It could be better, of course, but there’s nothing that sticks out like a sore thumb about it.

    I also have some health issues that make it a bad idea for me to be out in the heat for extended periods of time, especially in stays. I would like to see more late fall, early winter events,events that don’t involve camping, and indoor day events that would be easier for someone with such issues.

    I appreciate the extensive research that many do and I appreciate those who put such research online to help guide the rest of us on what’s good and what to avoid. But, again, I will reiterate, not all of us have deep pockets and for many of us, a more realistic goal is to be as authentic as our budgets will allow. Those of us who cannot afford complete accuracy should not be discouraged from participating in living history.

    • I think you make a great point here. While it’s a great thing that the overall level of authenticity within the hobby has gone up considerably in the last ten years, it has also greatly increased the cost of participating. I feel that as long as a member is doing their best, they should not be held back from participating due to shallow pockets – this is one of the reasons that I am a huge proponent of units having extensive collections of loaner gear, for one thing. Now, you don’t want someone out there in a Halloween costume, but some allowances need to be made if we want everyone to be able to participate (within reason).

      And yes, I too would like to see some cooler weather events, and some indoor events as well. Gadsby’s Tavern down here in Alexandria, VA has always struck me as a perfect site for some awesome indoor stuff.

      • I wish there was a central place online that listed reenactment groups and events by era and, with those who welcome beginners and those with limited resources identifying themselves.

        There was one site I have bookmarked that gave advice on how to work with a limited budget and how to prioritize what matters most in clothing choices and how to skillfully mix the good with the not so good, in order to minimize attention to the not-so-good stuff. More sites with such practical advice would be a good thing.

        I’m also a woman in my 50s, without a husband or male partner to reenact with, and I’m wondering how prevalent this is. I get the impression that most women get into the hobby along with their men and don’t do it solo as a rule.

        • Tracy– I’ve been reenacting since I was 12. First, with my father, then solo. So, for the past… ermmm….. 10 years I’ve been reenacting withOUT a male counterpart. I’ve found a group (two, now, and going on three) that I fit in to beautifully, and I can take my daughter (who is 4) with me on day trips. My husband never got into the hobby (YAY!), so he and the kiddo have daddy-daughter time while I go and play in the mid-18th century.

          I’ve developed the laundress persona over the last 10 years, slowly adding little bits here and there. Six years ago, I purchased washtubs, and, last April, the piece de resistance….. a copper kettle. It’s definitely an on-going project!

        • Tracey–I think part of the problem is that just about any group will say that they welcome beginners–but many mean “beginners who will have a complete and 100% correct kit right away” or “beginners who will fall in with our standards/demeanor/personality easily.” There’s also a question or how long a unit will consider you a newbie–some expect a complete kit within a year, others give more leniency (or less). Some have loaner clothes and some don’t. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing–some beginners want the immediate all-in and don’t want to deal with any in-authenticity from themselves or others. It’s tricky, but I really think the best way to find a unit is to talk to a lot of people and guest with a few different units.

          It really depends on the era and the location and other elements for how common it is for women to reenact without men. In my unit (Rev War) we’ve probably had more women bring their menfolk in than the other way around, and still have plenty of single women (and men)! Another reason you just have to snoop around a lot and ask questions.

          • Perhaps I should try to find a less strict group as a “starter group” and move on as my equipment improves. Right now, I’m having trouble finding any sort of groups at all for RevWar. My area seems to be all about the Civil War,which does not interest me so much.

            I’m also interested in some non-battle related living history. I saw one website where a group of women had gathered in a historical building for a RevWar era tea party. I’d like to do a lot of little things like that as well as the traditional type of reenacting. I have no idea how to find such types of events in my area, though.

        • I hope I will not get too much heat for posting this website, but reenactor.net is a good source for different time periods

  21. A couple of points:

    There is a HUGE difference between: “Oh my, she looks like a clown in that get up!” and “What an idiot! Stupid slut couldn’t bother to crack a book but she can crack open her legs!” The first is an observation – although snarky- but saying nothing to character of the person. The second is very clearly bullying. I’ve noticed a few comments stating they were teased for their kit. Being teased isn’t bullying. Being constantly harassed and being told you aren’t good enough and never will be is bullying.

    As my brother pointed out a couple of weeks ago, we were once told to be sympathetic to the bullies – after all, for them to act out like that, they obviously suffered some trauma/have some mental issues that force them to react in that way. Now, we are all into bullying the bullies. I think I prefer the old method, to act with love and compassion to those who obviously are trying to gain power over an individual by their words because all they crave is power and attention – not friendship and understanding.

    And yes, I certainly have been bullied in my various hobbies – however, I could care less about those creatures. Why would I let someone else gain power over me and force me to change my ways or my friends because they don’t like me as a person? Force them to change instead.

  22. I guess I have been lucky. I have encountered this problem only a few times. Part of that may be my location (Minnesota) which doesn’t have large numbers of reenactors. So most of us will do many different eras, or choose the few that interest them. I have never had much interest at all in military reenacting, but since my impression is a surgeon, I fit in pretty well as a civilian. My only bad experience was years ago with a fur-trade group, and there it really wasn’t anything they did, they were just a bit too insular for my tastes, and I didn’t really feel at home. So my advice if you’re being bullied? Come to Minnesota!

  23. This is a very important subject to discuss in our shared hobby. Thank you, Kelsey, for bring it to light. I’ve been in this hobby for a fair number of years myself doing various time period from 17th century to Vietnam and sad to say that elitism and bullying is alive and well. I was bullied as a school kid, so I have a lot of empathy towards those in later years that may not quite “fit in” with the group(s). Reenacting is filled with super-egos and those who take themselves far too seriously on just about every level. What should be a fun, family-oriented hobby in many cases has been usurped by those who have taken on the role of “history-police” who not only belittle those who may not be 100% correct, but have taken over the running of events that exclude many from participating. I have seen this happen to a tremendous degree in 18th century reenacting and to a lesser degree in WW2. Whenever I hear about a squabble concerning top-stitching or how so and so’s boots are not quite 100%, I have to remind people that this is indeed a hobby. It’s what we do when we are not sitting in the office (or classroom). At the end of the day, no real bullets were fired in anger (hopefully) We didn’t contract smallpox (hopefully) and we all get to sleep in comfort on Sunday night back in our homes. In reality we cannot possibly know what it was like to have crouched in a mud-filled trench in Flanders day after day, or what it was like to have marched for 20 miles daily wearing shoddy brogans. As reenactors we probably get a tiny glimpse of what it might have been like, but we can never really know for sure unless we were there. There are plenty of folks out there who feel that unless your 18th century coat is 100% hand-sewn or that your level of fitness can rival that of a marathon runner, then you have no place in this hobby. What utter rubbish. This hobby is first and foremost for our own enjoyment and if we can honor those who have come before us as well as educate the public to this fact, then we are doing pretty well. But first and foremost, it’s a hobby that should be open to everyone who wishes to participate. There is room for us all in this hobby.

  24. Bullying is never right, ever. Name-calling and rudeness should be left back in elementary school where we learned they were wrong.

    At the same time–as I slip into a flame-retardant suit–there is a two-way street that isn’t being mentioned here. I’ve rarely seen trash-talking except of people who knew better or chose to stay ignorant after years in the hobby. Yes, we should be accommodating of new people and of limited budgets…but when someone deliberately ignores authenticity standards or refuses to do any research and says “my stuff is right” or “if they’d had it they’d have used it” when people have kindly suggested it’s not correct…well, they open themselves up for some ridicule. It’s not right to be unkind, but it’s a way for dedicated reenactors to deal with the frustration of having someone parade around in farb-wear.

    I’m really saddened by the number of stories I see here of “so we left” or “so they left.” I wish people knew that a unit or organization that’s mean is a unit or organization to leave behind and find another. Too often I think people join units for the wrong (or, maybe more accurate, incomplete) reasons–it’s an impression they think is cool, or they pick the best-put-together unit out there. They fail to take into consideration “Do I get along with these people? Are they nice? What do they expect of me, and how quickly?” And I’ve even seen new people be the bullies–the self-proclaimed progressives who refuse to accept that they’re entering a group with an established set of protocols and well-worn norms and get ticked when everything doesn’t cater to them, so get catty. (Not all progressives are like this–not saying that at all!)

    • I totally agree with your second paragraph. I am very wary of joining any group before I know what the group’s general philosophy is or I have familiarized myself with the rest of the membership. (More often I just form my own groups, that way I set the general philosophy and monitor the group membership.) Of course, I have a few years of experience to get that right. Most new folk won’t understand that. They will join a group that’s either near them or does the period they are most interested in. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. If they have a bad experience, they can take it one of two ways: 1)leave the hobby because they had a bad experience with that one group, or 2)leave the group with a better understanding of what type of group they want to belong in. I hope they choose the latter. I have met plenty of people who, while I don’t think they would fit into my particular group, are fine reenactors and I do enjoy doing events with them.

    • You bring up a very important point about incoming bullies. I have been reenacting everything from War of 1812 up through the Indian Wars in Texas for over 25 years. I was a member of a well established and supportive Unit. Until a female bully joined. Since she was playing “slap-and-tickle” with the Unit Commander (who ran the Unit as though it were his own private Kingdom) she was allowed to do and say anything she liked and no one called her on it. I had worked VERY hard for my place in the Unit and she wanted it. And in a few months she took what had been a wonderful hobby and turned it into a living hell. Everything I did was criticized, I mean EVERYTHING- and she had to really hunt to find things to fuss about, I was dead serious about my impression. And she was far from perfect herself. But finally I told the Commander this was a hobby and now it had ceased to be fun so I was leaving because of the nastiness fostered by that woman and her clique. And he said nothing. I knew my efforts would be better appreciated elsewhere. It’s been 15 years and that Commander STILL bring it up, although the younger members don’t even know what the HUGE infraction was supposed to have been. It does sometimes seem like junior high all over again, but that is the nature of people, we are competitive and we do want recognition. Unless there is good and positive communication you have these issues come up. I am older and wiser now. You have many choices: ask the person openly what the problem is and how can it be solved, ask those in charge to mediate, or if that fails go someplace else where you are appreciated. I still love the hobby and refuse to waste my time on the ones who refuse to play nice and prefer to surround myself with friendly supportive people. And always be on the lookout for ways to help your fellow re-enactors, that’s what the hobby is about. Your “castle” may be perfect- but what fun is it to sit up there all alone?

    • I agree entirely with what you say above Rowenna.

      And this quote in particular: “…I’ve even seen new people be the bullies–the self-proclaimed progressives who refuse to accept that they’re entering a group with an established set of protocols and well-worn norms and get ticked when everything doesn’t cater to them…” – ugh we have been through this a few times and I am afraid we are about to again with our latest potential recruit. We really want the new members and are actively recruiting but we especially hope they will be team players, respect the established rules & standards and document & research any new ideas they bring (we are absolutely open to any portrayal or items that can be properly documented for our time period & location that also works for the group’s scenario).

      It is really difficult to politely uphold set standards when the new person thinks they already know & have everything right. I so hate dealing with the egos and playing the game of how to talk to them about what they did wrong and how it should be done without causing an argument. It can be so exhausting.

  25. It’s all bullying, whether it’s vulgar remarks like Isabella quoted, junior-high titters, or patronizing “do you know” and “let me tell you where to shop” comments from those who claim they are just trying to “educate.”

    Most groups have official guidelines, and any group can develop or change theirs. If those in charge want that group to have what they at least think is perfect authenticity, they can write those guidelines. If the official guidelines are too tolerant for the local costume vigilantes, they can lobby to have the guidelines changed.

    And anyone who truly wants to educate can hold a lecture, a workshop, or a series of classes, or put up a website, and invite everyone *impartially* to benefit from this material *voluntarily*. There is no need for people to personally gang up on newcomers or others (and it is usually a pressure wielded by a non-official group of people) and criticize.

    • Holding a series of classes won’t work for those that are “do whatever we want” crowd that open themselves up to ridicule like Rowenna mentioned. And yes, sometimes you have no idea if the person is new or not yet there are some basic things that should be followed -like wearing a hat or sunblock when you are outside all day so you don’t turn into a lobster. For instance, at one event (medieval/renaissance) I was at, a lady showed up wearing a panne velvet Halloween costume. Okay, newbie, whatever. She’ll learn. However, the problem was that she had been told they didn’t have bras in the middle ages and was following that rule with stretchy panne velvet on an 80+f day. As the day progressed, her neckline went southward. And, of course, as the day progressed, more and more of her became red. It wasn’t very long before the “bodice burn!” comments started. However, by the same token, the same people who were giggling and her lack of ability to freaking pull the dress back up to where it should be also asked around for some sunblock to give it to her – the point being, as Rowenna pointed out as well, sometimes everyone needs to get their frustration out first and then go and help. Asking if someone knows something is not patronizing within itself and educating a person on a one on one level is hardly bullying. Bullying is when it calls into question the person’s ability to learn ever or a constant string of harrassment. Saying one off the cuff comment – and anyone who dares to say they’ve never looked at People of Walmart or something similar without going “Oh my God!” is either a liar or a Saint- is not bullying.

    • patronizing “do you know” and “let me tell you where to shop” comments from those who claim they are just trying to “educate.”

      I don’t mean any disrespect, but how do you know these aren’t just people who want to share what they know but are lacking some social skills/generally more brusque than average? Unless they’re being actively unhelpful or are saying these things to someone who obviously knows what they’re doing, I don’t get how this is bullying rather than “misguidedly helping”.

      • Ditto on this. Sometimes well-meaning comments can come off wrong, so you need to think about the person and the context before getting truly offended. I don’t see direct, polite comments about someone’s kit to be bullying, as long as they are not meant maliciously. Many reenactors DO want to know if their kit is wrong.

        • I personally would love to be given information on best places to shop. I’ve hunted online and found several places and sometimes I’d like to hear about the experience of those who have shopped at a particular place and to learn of other places I might not have found on my own.

  26. I am an onlooker at reenacting events, sometimes my 12 year old likes to dress as a way to “participate” in history for the day. A few years ago, I did have some people ask me if we would be interested in joining a group but it was made very clear that it was for families only. Sorry, but my husband has a 6 day a week job which enables me to have the money and time to take my daughter to these living history events. So why can’t we just go and enjoy? It seems like the older my daughter gets, the less she is welcomed. Civil War, WWII, F&I, no problem so far but I am rethinking Rev War. At a large Rev War event held last year in PA, some reenactors thanked us for attending as we thanked them for their time and effort. But one woman told my daughter that she was not dressed correctly and was pretty snobbish. My daughter was excited to attend a Rev War event just last week (a 3 and a half hour drive from home). I did not feel welcome at the camps at all, we were mostly ignored. Disappointing as the everyday camp life and the reenactors themselves are what we are more interested in then the battles. I don’t think the public got much of an education that weekend. Have plans for Oriskany this summer but may be the last Rev War for us as I will encourage Civil War or something else where we are welcomed.

    • Caron–I’m really sorry you felt that way at a Rev War event. To give you a different perspective–most events are put on by established organizations (BAR, Continental Line, Brit Brigade, NWTA…) and often participants don’t really know what to do with “walk-ons”–people who don’t belong to the organization but come to the event dressed. We see these people as spectators and honestly aren’t sure what you expect of us. Are you trying to join? Are you trying to participate for the day? Did you just think it would be fun to dress for the day and watch? These are all fine (well, to a point–insurance regulations often mean we literally can’t let you participate, but that’s getting into details) but you have to realize that you may need to approach us and talk about your interests–we might not be “ignoring” you per se but unsure how to approach you because we don’t want to cause offense by making an assumption about you. This is going to sound harsh, but here it is–usually walk-ons are not authentically dressed but are wearing “fun” costumes, and I assume they’re just dressing up for fun for the day and have no real interest in joining. This is probably wrong of me, and I hereby apologize to anyone I’ve slighted by assuming this! (Just FYI, I’m in the Midwest so wasn’t at this event–yet I still apologize on behalf of the reenacting community if you were treated rudely–not cool!) I know if I talked to someone enthusiastic and dressed (even if it *was* inauthentic) I’d be thrilled to discover that they were interested in joining, but I probably wouldn’t presume that was why they were there without them approaching me.

      So, long winded, but my point is: If you want to join a reenacting group, the best way might not be to show up to an event dressed in period clothes and hope to be welcomed, but to go to an event in “civilian” clothes or even just browse the web and find units whose impressions but more importantly personality in terms of unit makeup and expectations match what you want. (Honestly–thank the group that told you it was families only, because you probably would have felt uncomfortable with their group dynamic if that was their attitude and had a longer bad experience that you did.) Talk to members of the unit about joining, email their recruiter if they have one, see if the organization has a recruiting unit. Ask if you can guest with the unit at an event and see how you fit in and if you like it. Expect that you might not end up with the first unit you guest with or join. Remember that most Rev War organizations are made of many, many units, each with their own personalities–not fitting in with one doesn’t mean not fitting in with the entire org in most cases.

    • Rev War is primarily the era I participate in and really, I think it’s all about the unit you’re looking at… My group is SUPER welcoming to families (all kinds, even ones where it’s mom and daughter) and they do NOT point the finger at people who are working on their kit. One of the guys in my unit has a 16yr old son that he’s been trying to get into reenacting so he got his son into uniform as much as possible. The exception being black sneakers because they couldn’t afford period correct shoes (upwards of $75 of course). So they just put gaiters over the sneakers and we all called it awesome that his son was out. That’s MY unit anyway.
      Course that doesn’t stop this awful woman who was in the camp next to us from snickering and telling me under her breath how awful his black nikes were. Lady, he’s 16 and we’re lucky we got him away from his smart phone and play station. Shut your hole. lol.

      Mind you, that’s the same woman who belittled a reenacting mom (friend of mine) because her toddler had a plastic pacifier in her mouth. She told the lady that she should shouldn’t ever bring that again and “well you can have someone carve you one out of wood, you know that’s far more accurate.” Who’s going to let their toddler potentially get wooden splinters in her mouth in the name of historical accuracy??

      SO yeah. You just have to find the right unit. There are good and decent ones out there.

  27. Isabella,

    My point is, that the group guidelines should cover the minimum so that the “do whatever you want crowd” does it within the guidelines. The rest is nobody’s business. UNLESS someone asks you for information.

    So as I say, if you want to offer unsolicited information, hold classes, give workshops, scatter advertising all over, offer every free admission, free refreshments, every inducement you can afford. But don’t walk around in what is essentially a social situation and tell other people what to do, whether “nicely” or brusquely. If they’ve met the official guidelines, they’ve passed.

    And, BTW, people should not be forced to reveal details of, or apologize for, their financial problems, their work schedule, their family situation, or anything else in their lives to excuse themselves from meeting someone else’s personal standard of “authenticity.”

    • Not everyone can give classes or hold workshops, though. You have to have a good place to put everyone, you have to advertise, you can only hope to get people who live within about an hour of wherever you’re holding it, and that’s *before* the question of whether you can actually teach well. You can make a website, but it’s likely to get lost among the many others, so nobody will see it.

      I’m kind of confused, though, because you gave earlier examples that weren’t about telling people what to do, and IMO “you should try Store A for those, it’s better than Store B” isn’t telling people what to do, it’s giving advice. Yes, it can be unsolicited, but that’s still not actually telling people what to do. You seem to be heading into a standard of “never act like you know something someone else doesn’t,” which is equally harmful. That, or “don’t talk about the process of costuming, etc. AT ALL because maybe other people aren’t interested.”

      • My stance is also “don’t give unsolicited advice.” About stores or otherwise. Doing reenactment doesn’t give you an excuse for that, and neither does the inability to hold a class or attract viewers to your website. Maybe, actually, not everyone WANTS your personal guidance. They may not want you to walk up and give unsolicited advice and they may not want to browse your website either, but really, is it so much trouble to keep your opinions to yourself unless genuinely asked?

        • Giving your opinion is not bullying. Not saying anything can be just as dangerous, if not more so, than going up to someone and asking them a simple “do you know?” questions. Begging forgiveness is easier than asking permission.

          • Dangerous? What can possibly be dangerous about keeping your mouth shut? There are plenty of sources of information other than you–books, original sources, websites, classes, all sorts of things people can go to voluntarily.

            I can’t stop you from treating other people any way you want. I have a simple rule: I give people one chance. The first time they try to patronize me, one-up me, criticize me, humiliate me, indulge in the junior-high titters, etc., I give them a very strong verbal kick that gets them out of my life forever. If that does not work, I keep it up till they go away. I don’t tolerate such behavior in my life and that is that. And no, I have not suffered from either lack of information or people I actually want to associate with.

            • Do you really not see that the issue here is that you keep on equating “giving un-asked-for advice” with “patronizing, humiliating, bullying, and putting down”, imagining that you can psychically understand the motives of every single person who has ever given advice without someone looking into their eyes and saying “can you please help me with this specific problem, and any other tangential ones that are related”?

              I thought it was obvious, but it could be dangerous to not say anything if you see someone preparing to mix ammonia and chlorine bleach. Rather extreme example, but not much more extreme than turning “don’t get your breeches from that vendor, they’re not accurate and don’t have a good fit, either” into “ha ha, stupid, you don’t know where to get breeches, you should just give up”.

              It just seems rather bootstrappy, the whole book/website/voluntariness thing. The implication is that if a source is good it will be successful, and if nobody pays attention to what you put out there, well, tough luck, guess you’re not worth listening to. With the secondary implication that the rest of us should shut up since we’re not published like you.

              • This. Plus, many people don’t know where to start. Simply going up and asking, “Hey, are you new here? Did you know?” is not bullying. It’s being helpful.

                “The first time they try to patronize me, one-up me, criticize me, humiliate me, indulge in the junior-high titters, etc., I give them a very strong verbal kick that gets them out of my life forever.”

                <-that is bullying. If you never give a person a second chance for what may be a lack of social graces (VERY common in the re-enacting world) where they only meant to say "Oh! I made one too! But mine is out of gold rather than bronze!" (one-upmanship) then I can easily see that as being a bully. And criticizing? I think we use that word in way too a negative light far too often anymore. Yet, we all still listen to food critics. Giving a critique within itself is also not bullying. They can be quite helpful.

                • Clearly, some people’s need to tell other people what to do is greater than those who do not want to be told, as shown by all the excuses being given here. For example, it’s silly to claim that bustling round to give unsolicited comments on someone’s attire is the same as telling them not to mix up an explosive combination of chemicals. I simply do not tolerate other people commenting on what I believe is only my business and I will freely tell them so. Getting someone out of my life once and for all is not bullying; it merely saves both me and them aggravation.

                • Sorry, I meant “greater than their respect for those who do not need to be told.”

                • “And criticizing? I think we use that word in way too a negative light far too often anymore.”

                  Agreed. It’s not acceptable to blitz someone with a host of “you’re doing this wrong”s, but for some reason there seems to be this idea that saying that an outfit isn’t perfect is a commentary on one’s soul.

                  To be honest, what with all of the stories about people being seriously ostracized by their units, it seems ridiculously trivial to be talking about unsolicited costume advice in the first place.

                • A restaurant review published in the local paper (or even on Yelp) is not the same thing as giving an unsolicited personal opinions on someone’s cooking skills. There are places for reviews and critiques. A social event–which is what reenactment is–is not one of them.

                  I’ve been around reenactors of various types for over 30 years. The underlying causes of the reenactment culture’s problems are probably:

                  1. It’s mostly not been a part of mainstream culture. Reenactors feel different, so they create solidarity by putting down “mundanes.” Yes, I know not all reenactment groups use that exact term but the concept is there in all of them. Then the in-group reenactors put down the ones not in the in-group.

                  2. It’s a group activity, and people are constantly striving to run things, even if unofficially by one-upping and busybodying.

                  3. It is for many at least partly a fantasy, where they want to be in a perfect “movie,” so they pressure everyone else who does not display the right costumes, tents, gear, etc., to conform to their own wishes.

                  4. Of humans that band together to do various things, reenactors are generally well on the conformist end of the curve. They are not big on tolerance, nor on intellectual independence. This means that generally speaking, they don’t do good research, because they don’t want to think outside the little box other reenactors have built. They are rightfully afraid they will be ridiculed, put down, flamed, and so forth. There are a few exceptions. For example, SCA members can be at least as obnoxious as any others, but they tend to be more intellectual; and when I see research done in a truly academic manner, it tends to be from that group.

                  5. Most reenactors like to have a set of statements to repeat, to the extent that many, many times I’ve heard people say the same thing in almost exactly the same words. They have built up a vocabulary of high-minded excuses to cover contemptible behavior; excuses like “education” and “research.” When I hear many of these statements for the umpteenth time, sometimes I debate them and often I merely go away.

                  As I said, reenactment is a wonderful concept that I don’t think will ever be carried out well, because there is a long-established and widespread reenactment culture that has mostly destroyed, or at least seriously inhibited, the ideals of research and education that originally inspired it.

                  I am, actually, not sure this is “bullying.” As I said, I cannot conceive why anyone would put up with most of it at all. I certainly do not have or want a social life that is like the reenactment world.

        • I got that from your previous post, and that’s an okay personal stance to have, but very few people are going to agree that unsolicited advice is automatically bullying, and letting the strictest stance rule doesn’t make for good environments when it comes to anything.

          It’s not about looking for a venue to harass people, it’s about wanting to help other people who may not always know to ask. Sometimes they think they’re spending their money in the most effective way, or making their kit in the most accurate way, often because they’re new. Most people I know don’t mind the occasional “oh, hey, you can get this cheaper/better at this shop” or “would you like me to show you a simpler way to do that?” or something along those lines. Of course it’s *possible* for people to be condescending about it, but the act itself isn’t condescending. If you’re not fond of it, I suggest you continue not giving it.

          You’re acting like you have a personal bone to pick with me, though, despite the fact that you’re the author and I’m the nobody, and I do find that rather off-putting. Which is kind of ironic, I guess.

          • Helen,

            I don’t have a personal bone to pick with you. I was merely replying to your message, just as other people here are talking back and forth without having any “bones” to pick.

            I do realize I can’t control what other people say to each other, but I do my best to keep people I object to out of my life.

          • I don’t have a personal bone with you, but I think commenting on anyone’s outfit is very rude, just as it would be if you walked up to someone on the street and told them how unfashionable they are, or how fat they are and how bad for their health it is. Whatever. I’m violating my own advice simply not to associate at all with people who have certain attitudes. As for my giving advice, people have to pay for it–in which case I am sure they want it.

            • As for being “ostracized by a unit,” I’d be out of there in five minutes. Why put up with it at all? Reenactment is a wonderful concept that has been completely destroyed by the modern social culture that has grown up around it. This happened many years ago, and that culture cuts across all groups I have encountered. Learning about history, recreating physical objects, and other activities can be enjoyed elsewhere without a bunch of one-uppers, put-downers, in-groupers, and so forth getting in your face all the time. It would be nice to be able to change these people, but it is easier to avoid them.

              • One piece of unsolicited advice: Anyone fed up with the reenactment culture might want to try steampunk events. They cut across a wide variety of eras. The culture is highly inventive and creative, educated, and tolerant. Steampunkers are not looking for the one right concept and the one right way to do everything, or into pressuring others to conform. It’s the total opposite of the reenactment culture.

            • Yes, those two specific examples would be very rude and out of line. *But that’s not what all comments on someone’s outfit are like.* You’ve been saying that *all* commenting is rude, and supporting that by only giving examples of horribly invasive things to say. But “you have a loose thread”, “did you know you’ve lost a button?”, etc. are all unsolicited advice that isn’t rude and doesn’t insult someone (unless you think it’s insulting to imply that they might be unaware of something relating to their person). Most people would probably be talking to people they know, too – not just walking up to some complete stranger on the street.

              It’s great that you’d leave if you were being horribly treated, but clearly that’s not the case for everyone. And your second comment sounds like you’re following the letter of your law but not the spirit, as it’s unsolicited criticism for most of the people who’ve commented here. Congratulations. And as for trying to wound me by telling me I have “certain attitudes” despite having never seen me interact with anyone apart from disagreeing with you in this thread (“one-upping” and “put-downing”, I guess?), it only makes me sure that you’re very judgmental. It’s astounding how many long-term members of the community turn out to be people I don’t want to associate myself with.

              • Actually, since this forum was set up to invite comments on this very subject, my criticism IS solicited.

                But, I’ve had my say. I don’t know WHY people feel the need to run around telling others they have lost buttons. It may not be bullying but it’s obnoxious and I don’t understand why some people on this forum are so eager to do obnoxious things on the groups that it’s not actually bullying.

                Whatever. I don’t have to deal with you.

                • There’s a difference between giving advice to help the person who wrote to Kelsey, and going, “Geeze, I don’t know why anyone would bother to stick around with agroup that was mean to them” when a lot of people are posting about their bad experience to support each other. This is what I mean about the letter of the law vs. the spirit – technically, your advice is solicited,s o you feel okay saying whatever no matter how blunt to the people here, but it’s rather belittling and unhelpful to the people who have been treated badly.

                  Because they might not know, and might prefer to fix it and walk around looking the way they’d like to look, rather than having their skirt hang open at the back or some such issue? This seems like a fairly simple one to me. Same goes for having lost an earring or having a hem falling down – there’s no need to invent crazy theories about people being mean and taking pleasure in pointing out that something’s wrong when Occam’s Razor would point to people wanting to help each other because they know they’d rather be told in the same situation.

        • I am following you Frances, just like when someone is pregnant or getting a puppy – suddenly everyone and their Mother tells you exactly what you have to do – as if you are a clueless idiot incapable of reading or knowing anything. I loathe unsolicited advice personally unless it is delivered is a certain way. Say I discovered an awesome online fabric store with a great selection and good prices. Then I may say to someone, when the subject comes up: “I just found a great online fabric shop that you may be interested in looking at. The fabric I got from them was exactly as represented online and the prices very good. I can send you the link if you like?”. To me that is way better then telling someone where they “have to” shop or what they “have to” buy.

  28. I got this from Don Hagist, one of the senior researchers in the Rev War/British side of the hobby. I do my best to follow it, and while I may stray from it at times, it seems a good and pertinent creedo to follow.

    ——————————-

    The Happy Soldier’s Ten Commandments (or How to Grow and Prosper in the
    Reenactment Business)

    [From the newsletter of the 22nd Regiment of Foot in America, April 1983]

    I. Thou shalt not arrive without powder.
    Preparedness is a simple exercise in self discipline and organization. Use a
    checklist or whatever is necessary for you, but don’t be the one who forgets
    something important.

    II. Thou shalt not forget thy neckstock.
    Similarly, once at an event, be prepared for the activities. Have your equipment
    organized and accessible for when the drums sound, and don’t neglect any portion
    of the uniform.

    III. Thou shalt not lose anything.
    If you own it, you keep track of it. This applies to both long- and short-term
    loss; if it’s not there when you need it, finding it later is no help. Be
    organized, and don’t bring what you don’t need.

    IV. Thou shalt not drink in the Summer.
    Or do anything else overtly destructive to your health. Poorly chosen fun is
    never worth the aftereffects.

    V. Thou shalt not blow thine own horn.
    Talk is cheap. Don’t tell people you’re good at something, show it. If you
    really have something to boast about, others will do it for you.

    VI. Thou shalt not judge others by thine own standards.
    Different people want different things out of the hobby. Consider the objectives
    of others before you rate their performance, especially when evaluating other
    units.

    VII. Thou shall not give unsolicited advice.
    Similar to No. VI, what another group does is its own business. Be attentive of
    the actions of others in order to learn, but don’t interfere. If someone asks
    for help or advice, give it frankly and honestly, but not overbearingly.

    VIII. Thou shall not dwell on the petty.
    Or, ‘Let mole hills be mole hills’. Making issues out of trivial things only
    creates animosity; if others choose to do so, don’t sink to their level.

    IX. Communicate.
    Failure to do this is the primary destructive element in the hobby. If you must
    make an issue of something, do it openly, civily, and directly with the people
    involved.

    X. Thou shall think.
    Make common sense a common thing, and all else will be remarkably easy.
    It took some time to single out these ten points as a basic guide to getting by
    in the world of reenacting. Notice that more of them deal with dealing with
    other people, rather than aspects of portraying history. This is because most
    people in the hobby tend to neglect the former as they pursue the latter – even
    though they are of equal importance to the advancement of our goals. Our own
    weakness has been in the first four points, but as we strive to correct these
    shortcomings, let us not forget the need to improve in the rest.

  29. I know this will not be a welcome or popular view, but here goes… I think it is important for us to distinguish between bullying and just rude behavior. Bullying, by its very definition, is to treat someone abusively or to make someone do something (or not do something) by force or coercion. Bullying is an overt act of intimidation performed by a stronger person (or one with more authority) on a weaker person (or one in an inferior position), and I would also add that (in my opinion) bullying can really only take place in unavoidable circumstances like school or work. All hobbies are voluntary, as are the groups and events associated with the hobby. The rest is just rude behavior, plain and simple.
    By the actual definition of bullying, I have only seen one instance in 10 years of reenacting and it was pretty minor – a weapons inspector rubbed some gun powder residue on a participant’s white weskit to show him that his ramrod was dirty. But I have seen LOADS of rude behavior. Talking about someone behind his or her back does not really fit the traditional definition of bullying, and anyone who does not admit to saying anything negative about another person’s impression is lying to him/herself and everyone else.
    Having been on the receiving end of nearly ceaseless bullying in elementary and middle school, and of rude behavior in reenacting (including being called “farb” before I got serious about my impressions), I know what real bullying feels like, and most of what I’ve read here is not bullying. Unsolicited advice is certainly not bullying. Neither is taking offense to a woman portraying a man, pointing out the incorrectness of camp items that did not exist during a certain time period, nor making fun of unrepentant farbs or elitists behind their backs acts of bullying. I find myself at a loss to understand how rude behavior in an avocation now constitutes bullying and why so many people here consider this a huge problem in reenacting. The topic seems a bit overblown.

    • I agree, though if you read through some of the stories people have told in the comments here, there is definitely overt bullying going on in the hobby as well.

  30. It is a shame that people are so quick to judge.. but if you constantly tell us how wonderful you are and how much you have given to the hobby and how you and your family made the hobby “what it is today”… you open yourself up to being the subject. Be wonderful…play wonderfully…help your fellow reenactors…just stop telling everyone how fantastic you are,… then noone will have anything to say. Try a bit of modesty..or get a press agent. Noone loves you more than you do…. we all work hard in the hobby.

  31. well..I was looking into getting started by joining a local re-enactment group and was quite excited about the prospect of learning a new hobby but these posts have completely put me off jst one point becore I go.. however do you expect new people to get involved and learn if all you do is criticize and bully behind their backs?very sad indeed.

    • Not everyone is terrible! In fact, there are plenty of supportive, friendly groups and events to join. You cannot judge a group’s character until you meet them and give it a try. Don’t like the way it turns out? Start a group of your own or find “open” events like festivals and living-history sites (especially local museums and shooting rendezvous) where individual costumers and reenactors have a little more breathing room. :)

  32. Wow! I’ve read it all! There are a lot of comments!

    Alex, the Ten Commandments from Don Hagist are wonderful! Full of common good sense! One could wish that all re-enactors followed them.

    I’ve been involved with re-enacting for over 20 years now. I’ve seen a lot of the scenarios that have been described. I’ve always chosen to do something away from the established units. I participated on event organization committees and for quite a few years I’ve been a small vendor/suttler. In many ways, I’ve been outside, looking in.

    I’m just going to share two words that I try really hard to live by in both my everyday “real” life and also in my re-enacting life: Kindness and Respect.

    If everyone tried to behave with kindness and respect we’d have a much happier world.

    One must consider if it’s respectful to poke fun and chuckle about another’s appearance behind that person’s back. Is it kind to tell a person that they’re “doing it all wrong”?

    As a vendor/seamstress/milliner/corsetiere I have the opportunities to give presentations and share research. At events I always have some research books with me should a conversation drift toward needing pictures or documentation. The presentations often have a twist of humour. We try really hard to make it fun.

    I have to agree with Fran, though, I think it would be rude of me to tell someone what was wrong with their personal clothing if I was not asked. If I’m “in the shop” and someone asks, I try to find things about the individual’s attire that is good – things that can be preserved in the overall impression and perhaps improved by the addition of “this or that”. Even the most dismally dressed newcomer will have at least one or two things that they got right. I can perhaps make suggestions about how other existing garments can be altered to achieve something closer to historic accuracy.

    The other thing I try to do is dress as well as I can, myself. I say that, knowing full well that I am also a work in progress. There are LOTS of things about my own personal kit that could be improved. But by just appearing well dressed, I hope to present an example of how it can all come together if you wear the stays, if you have well chosen shoes, if your glasses have the period “look”. I wouldn’t ever suggest to another re-enactor that they need to adopt my standards as their own: And my personal standards, by the way, are not up to some of the intense detail that some re-enactors strive for. My “period glasses” have the right bridge and the right size and shape, but they’re circa 1920-30 with the loops around the ears. Still, when worn, no-one can see the ear loops and my research allows me to feel that they have the right overall look to pass for early 19th century.

    Everything in re-enacting is a compromise.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we all accepted “compromise”, “kindness” and “respect” as foundation to the hobby?

    Dawn Luckham

  33. I’ve got to say, this article really hit the nail on the head. I’ve been reenacting WWII for the past year and a half, and it is definitely a big problem in our organization. A lot of it stems from unit politics and a few abraisive people in positions of power who tend to aggrivate things. Many of the people who participate in that kind of bullying of people who they don’t see as measuring up are often “farbs” themselves. What really sucks is that the amount of bullying and elitism within my original unit has actually forced me to start participating in another unit part time just to get away from the negativity. At one recent event, one German reenactor with a social disorder decided to turn traitor in the middle of the battle, and ended up joining the partisans for a few hours after shooting his fellow soldiers in the back in the middle of a charge. While this is generally considered inappropriate behavior and would probably warrant a discussion or lecture from the unit leader, the response from his unit was symptomatic of the rude behavior that seems to be more common nowadays. They subjected him to merciless harassment for the remainder of the event, constantly insulting him in and out of his presence, and even the unit leaders put him on guard duty for four hours and ejected him from the unit permanently following the event, without even bringing the issue up for discussion with him. I genuinely feel terrible for all of those who are subjected to the inappropriate behavior of the folks who seem to have forgotten why we reenact. While I can see the benefits of being able to come up with a great, hardcore impression, I don’t think that it should come at the cost of alienating enthusiastic people because they might not have the time, knowledge, or resources to come up with a perfect one themselves. Harassing people or speaking ill of them takes all of the fun out of the hobby.

  34. I have found that there are some individuals or groups that bully others who have different political beliefs from them. I feel that there is no place for modern personal politics in portraying history. I was with a group that did this after hours around the campfire. It turned into a political rally for one particular political persuasion with really nasty things said. Any one who was not part of their group felt excluded and marginalized. I have actually had members comment on my bumper sticker. The sad part is when some of these members try to recreate history with their own personal bias slant. I have even heard them tell members of the public some of this bias as though it is fact. Thankfully I no longer belong to that group but have also seen other reeactors do this too, even online.

  35. There is a prominent couple in the Civil War reenactment community with a last name that starts and ends with T. They run off many a new reenactor,, and not because the person is inaccurate in their historical impression. Look at the many internet boards upon which this couple posts. A newcomer to reenacting will ask a perfectly reasonable question, only to be met with scorn and derision by the Ts.

    I agree with someone who posted about the female clique types. They treat newcomers with immediate suspicion, especially if she’s single. (They think their husband/boyfriend is so wonderful that everyone is after them). Ditto for the power plays. They’ll try to teach you that you can’t take over “their” leadership role, even if you have no interest in it – or even in being friends with their particular nest of hens. It took a full two years for them to realize I wasn’t even playing the game with them.

  36. KEVIN MCCLENNAN

    my name is kevin I have been doing re-enacting in australia for about 7 years my first group was a civl war group then I join a ww2 group the name of the group was the standard bearers group and for six years I was bullyed by the leader of the group and members so I left and now I started my own group called battlefield re-enacting group there is no bullying my group that is for sure it should be stamped out for good so re-enactors can enjoy them self.

  37. I’d just like to add something to these comments and I’m going to be really brief so as not to implicate anyone specifically.

    Very recently a group I am friends with was just attacked by another group online. Now my group is NOT a reenactment group, they are a tongue-in-cheek take on the period who also do educational talks whilst sliding fact along with a bit of humour to make people smile and chuckle and get children involved, as well as learn. They were recently attacked by an actual re-enactment group who seemed to fail to miss the point entirely but I was shocked to discover how vicious the attack was.

    It went so far as to attack friends of the group itself for attending as paying public to the venue and daring to wear modern glasses as well as other guests at the event who wanted to join in and did a bit of dressing up for the weekend. Those people are not even part of the group but simply wanted to have fun?! They were patronising, bullying and downright nasty. The same group also seems to be part of a facebook group called FarbFest where they proceed to ridicule the overweight and fat-shame people despite their policy being not to be mean. Hilarious if you read a few of the comments on there which are nothing but self-righteous nastiness!

    This was my first experience with actual re-enactors but interestingly not the first time I’ve heard about this sort of thing from people who have left the hobby due to bullying and bitchiness (everything from regency, victorian and WWII groups) so honestly reading all these comments and this article, I am not surprised. Not being a re-enactor myself but someone with an interest in history I would honestly say that sort of experience has put me off for life! I really think re-enactors need to sort themselves out or they’re going to start becoming a rare breed.

    • KEVIN MCCLENNAN

      kevin mcclennan. I think its about time for the bullys to bugger off and let the military re-enactors do there own thing that’s way my re-enacting group does not alow bullys in my group we are here to relive history not to be harssed by bullys.

  38. I believe “bullying” is a catch phrase that is entirely overused. Reenacting is no different than real life. You meet decent and honorable people. You also meet petty and politically motivated people. This is nothing new to society and you only need to look at the activities of the current administration to have proof. Bottom line is that you have to deal with it. It won’t stop because people simply don’t like it. You clearly made the correct choice in not associating with a group who were nothing more than fair weather friends at best. You beat them by not caring who or what they are and carry on with life saying “to hell with you”. Any group that acts as dishonorablly and callously as they did do not deserve the comarderie of yourself or boyfriend.

  39. Glad I stumbled across this blog, it’s been interesting reading these and I looked at this specifically because I’d like to do reenacting, but honestly I’m a little intimidated by all this type of nonsense.

    It’s intimidating because I know I’m one of those people who’s likely to be singled out and ridiculed and so on. I don’t think it will be so much from the vanish point of authenticity of my clothing or even historical accuracy of the subject material I’ve studied, but more from my unorthodox matter of presentation. (Much of the venue of material I study, I’ve been told by other reenactors that most reenactors don’t generally study, or even consider.) I have a tendency to look at wars though a larger sociological and even a psychological lense that takes into consideration things people may not think about or even know of. Example – “the great awakening” (which was a religious revival movement that started in the 1740′s) had a rather interesting and not conventionally thought of impact on the American Revolution. The same could be said for the “age of reason” and the “industrial revolution” though. Personally I’ve noticed that when I start looking at some of these threads, the political outcomes of history make more sense. (But than again at other times, it’s hard to identify what “caused” or “influenced” event X,Y, or Z and maybe just chalk it up to “providence of God”.)

    So, aside from (and on from) my historical research of the structure of human societies; I want to talk to the public, and I think I’ve developed a means of doing that which is informative, creative and entertaining. (I’m working on a program that conveys information through a form of story telling.) I have a variety of “blurbs” I’m working on about medicine, medical practices, philosophies, culture, music ect. I’m even thinking about researching and putting together some local legend and ghost story type “blurbs”.

    So, as you can see by what little I’ve already explained, I’m a little “outside the box” as far as the reenacting community goes and I’m wondering if I should not even start to look for a different venue for what I would be doing? So, regardless of how authentic my clothing is, I’m seriously asking myself if I have the fortitude to put up with this type of BS, since I’ve already discovered (via many rejections) that just finding a unit that is willing to consider me is difficult. (None of those rejections have even been based on the venue of history I study or even the type of presentation I’m looking at, but solely based on their issue with women “dragging” as soldiers. Which personally I find that attitude really irritating, since I’m a veteran of a modern conflict.)

    Anyways, there’s my two cents.

  40. With today’s victim mentality it is very hard to sort out the “bully” but I will say. I have done my best to meet group standards, treat others with respect, not have a thin skin and haven’t had any problems that couldn’t be ironed out with a little face to face discussion. As far a perfection goes. I’ve noticed after 25 years of teaching the best teachers are the ones who admit they don’t know it all and keep working to learn new things.

    • KEVIN MCCLENNAN

      In my group in Australia there is no bulling is allowed or harassment if any body my does they are removed from the group I have been through it myself . from Kevin MCCLENNAN BATTLEFIELD RE-ENACTING GROUP

  41. Well, my very first reenactment that I actually came dressed for happened this past weekend. I showed up as a wounded/convalescing/disabled British soldier. (AWI) I went to the Saratoga National Park’s 75 year anniversary event, upon invitation from another park volunteer, who is also a reenactor.

    We’d had a good conversation, one weekend a couple of weeks ago. Talked about history, talked to the visitors who’d come to check out the stop he was at. I told him about the impression I was working on and how I’d “gone all out” in the adventure of making the uniform. We talked about equipment and costume making and stuff like that. He said my impression sounded interesting and he wanted to see it, so he invited me to the reenactment.

    I was excited. I was looking forward to it and then……. the thing I’d most feared actually happened!

    After only being about an hour in camp Saturday morning, (I’d gotten up at 2 am and drove 6 hours to get there) another reenactor (who was the head of the organization providing the reenactors) asked me to leave the encampment, because I was a female in uniform.

    Well, this made several of the park staff upset and so I spent the remainder of Saturday at the visitor’s center talking to the public. My reenacting adventure was cut short and I went home Saturday evening when the park closed.

    After mulling things over and a good night’s sleep, I composed my formal complaint to the National Park Service. Well, in doing some research, I came across some stuff I think might be useful to other reenactors who may find themselves in a similar circumstance.

    1. All park permits that are issued for public events are still subject to all laws that govern the federal (or state, if it’s a state park) parks. This includes anti-discrimination laws. A person can not be prohibited from entering a particular area of the park which is open to the public, based on things such as gender. In other words, this reenactor had actually broken the law by asking me to leave an encampment that was open to the public at that time.
    a. they don’t have to feed you or let you use their equipment, but they can’t kick you out of
    the encampment if you are there during hours that the encampment is open to the public. (Needless to say, I encountered no other reenactors who’d expressed to me a problem with my presence in the camp. Everyone else I’d met was welcoming, and nor did the public have any issue with me. Many (reenactors included) expressed gratitude for my presentation and at times comical dissemination of information.)

    2. All public events, held in federal and state parks, regardless of who’s group is providing the service and whether or not they are the only ones on the permit are … “open to the public”. So, someone like myself can attend these events in uniform and participate in historical interpretation / instruction. So long as I’m not interfering with the event, or the public running of the park. They can exclude me from a tactical demonstration, but that didn’t matter to me because (besides the fact that I’m incapable of doing them anyways) – that wasn’t what I was there for.

    So, a bit of info I hope is helpful.

    • Sorry to hear that happened to you. Not all reenactments or Reenacting groups are like that. However, many are… I’ve portrayed a soldier for about 30 years now and had to deal with many small people who want to use gender as an excuse to be small minded. Surprisingly, I’ve found they are not all so different in real life. Since you’ve found a niche in the parks service volunteer groups, I’d recommend pursuing site based volunteer groups. Because of changes in discrimination laws, government sponsored volunteer organizations tend to be much more inclusive. Those that aren’t do so at their own peril. Though I look smaller in stature than my male counterparts in line, I take the history and military skills of the day just as seriously (if not more so). Don’t be discouraged by one small minded person – though you’ll undoubtedly run across many others if you are a woman portraying a soldier, there are a lot of guys to whom your gender will matter a lot less than your interpretive skills and willingness to participate.

    • PWF, I am so very sorry that this happened to you! Recently our group has had a female portraying a male soldier for the first time. It caused arguments then the main nay-Sayers left the group and a rational discussion ensued. Not one member had issue with this woman portraying a male and she did, and very well. I might add that she worked harder then many of our male members do.

      The one catch that we are concerned about as a group is the what if for the next time. A standard has now been set by someone who was passable as the opposite gender. What if the next person wishing to portray the other gender does not pass – at all. It then becomes a huge inaccuracy for the time we portray. We decided to vote on a case by case basis. The main thing is to play the part well and not stand out. If the public figures it out it would lead to a great conversation on gender roles of the period.

  42. I have seen this happen again and again in the Oregon Regency Society (and other sister groups). It has literally driven new people away. They have felt condescended upon, ridiculed, admonished, belittled and patronized by people who have chosen to have a particularly strict standard for their own costume. I do not admonish the desire to be authentic, but not everyone wants to or can dedicate the same time and effort those people can. Does that mean they should not be able to participate as well? This is the question.

    I’ve seen good people walk away and never come back because they were told they need to secure a persona; that they needed to hand-stitch everything, and all manner of other ‘requirements’ the ORS has never imposed on anyone. It is not up to the participants to create the standard in our group, and I have tried to stress this more than once. I encourage everyone to seek the level of commitment that they are most willing to give, and to keep trying. The people who are the pinnacle of accuracy are welcome to create a sub-group of accurate costume exploration, but they should not admonish the ones that show up in a barely modified prom gown. Those people will see the finer costume and make efforts on their own, whether or not it meets the standard of the accurate person is ultimately irrelevant.

    I think it is much like anything that has to do with groups of people. Someone always wants to have the leg up, the better place than other people, and they achieve this by being complete jerks about it., The sad thing is, most costumers are people who themselves were different as kids, and most costumers know what it’s like to be made fun of, sneered at, snickered at and so on. But they bring the whole High School mentality to something that is supposed to be fun.

    If you do reenactment for a living or for historical purposes, then that is your job. And that qualifies you to be knowledgeable and have the most refined work hanging from your body. But not everyone, especially those that don’t do it for a living, need to be as good as you. And I suspect, nobody ever would be with that kind of mentality. It has been a subject of constant friction and name calling. It is like these two things—costume and garb, are impossible to blend amicably (at least beyond face value). And snide remarks and gossip, and nasty nicknames will continue to be thrown over something as remarkably benign as a piece of fabric and stitches.

    My take on it is that there are much worse things in the world to get your knickers in a twist about, and if someone ‘s costume doesn’t meet snuff, it isn’t too hard to just grow up, and get over it; look the person in the face, and appreciate them as human beings, and don’t them by the kind of fabric they chose.

  43. I have had issues based solely on the fact that I’m a woman. I do WWII era and all of my impressions fit my gender (no “cross-dressing – although I don’t really see a problem with it if it’s done well, but I digress). I have had men get upset just because I am there. I actually met my boyfriend at a reenactment – we’d both been doing this for years. But when I went out with his group they were being so awful that I actually left in tears and drive 3 hours to my parents house for the day. And this is AFTER he told them to knock it off. They like to talk about how that was the best event ever just to add insult to injury. I don’t mind teasing or joking but it just went WAY beyond that. The thing is, they are really cool guys outside of reenacting, but put on a uniform and they turn into the worst sexist jerks you’ll ever see. As an added bonus though, if I was a single woman they would be happy to have me there thinking they could “get some.” Once you’re “taken,” you’re no longer useful.

  44. Debra DiFranco

    Being of a unit (US Sanitary Commission – Boston Branch) whose goal is to strive for high authenticity, when new members arrive we mentor and teach them. We have a great group of people who are eager to learn and feel excited about the hobby.. an new person’s husband joined the military side and she went off and started to purchase things from sutlers who do not make authentic goods. Once we caught both the news of her joining and the clothing, we have sent an outreach to her, will give her mentoring and help to guide her future choices to what is authentic and meet unit standards. Learn as you go and the hobby should be fun!! We just feel bad that no one in charge of the membership list told us she was joining…. we would have been there with the welcome wagon at day one… We have since fixed our communication gap with the military side so we won’t miss any one else coming in with their husband.

    • Your unit has the right of it- COMMUNICATE! That’s all that is needed. If a new member is offended because you want to offer them help and support then perhaps re-enacting is not for them. There is nothing wrong with wanting the overall unit impression to be an authentic one. There is nothing wrong with having standards. It’s often a fine line, you want people to have fun, you want a friendly group but the goal is to be as historically accurate as possible.

  45. Just go to some of the Facebook groups. Two come to mind. “FARB FEST” and “FARB FEST (Non-Politically Correct)” group. I always thought WW2 reenacting was a lot more tame until I saw the posts on these pages.

    The premise of the pages is to have a bit of fun against ourselves for reenacting farbiness. Which is fine. I can understand the chuckle at someone using a cell phone, digital camera, or some other form of modern tech at an event. But most of the time it is aimed at specific individuals. There is a person who does WW2 that they call “Grumpy Farb” that they consistently target on a near constant basis. They have added him on Facebook and stalk his page to obtain pictures. The first couple were admittedly funny – but they kept on targeting this guy over and over again… to the point that it did indeed become bullying of this poor kid.

    They’ll do it to other reenactors as well. The moment you’re up on the radar they will go right at it.

    They also like to target anyone who is overweight. When, usually, they are overweight or overage technically to be in the impressions they display.

    If someone who is a target posts, or if someone comes along to post a bit of common sense they are usually met with a heavy amount of hostility. I recently saw an argument on one of the pages where the admin posted a video that had nothing to do with reenacting, but rather 12-14 year old kids who made a little war movie with added effects. When a poster came along and asked what the point was of posting it as it was not reenacting related and just little kids the admin came along and began to cuss the guy out. Then told him to leave the page.

    I would not be surprised if the activity on some of these groups has turned people away from the hobby or kept them from the hobby all together. Most of the time it all seems like highschool drama. I am lucky to be a part of a group that is drama free. So as long as you ignore other people’s BS…you are much better off. They usually do not have a clue what they are talking about to begin with.

  46. Something very similar was happening to me in the ww1 group I was part of. Now admittedly my attitude didn’t help as behind the scenes I was having a tough time in my personal life and could be snippy with people. But rather than find out what was up, several decided talking about me behind my back, insulting me and causing tension. I was standing up for myself, however, and apparently this was a problem.
    This happened to the extent the group leader made a big effort to get me to change my behaviour. I felt unwelcome and unwanted, so I left and am no longer reenacting.

  47. Its sad but this also hapoens in australia, the group I was with has become they lost about 10 members last year, worse still its motivated by such members who should know better such as teachers and police officers

  48. I have been doing this for almost 30yrs and I have been in several groups and am still in two.Most groups have a certain criteria for joining. Generally they require a reasonable degree of accuracy in uniform/kit/clothing/weapons etc. This would be agreed by the new person joining. Often there is help to start or you must be fully kitted before joining. It is not unreasonable to exclude females from certain aspects of this hobby where historically they do not fit in unless the particular group relaxes the rules in which case they then are left open to scrutiny from more authentic groups. Its a double edged sword. Most of my groups have included women in the correct context.
    I have heard and been involved in arguments for and against women on the battlefield. However if the particular reenactment has no overwhelming evidence for large women fighting on the battlefield then why are societies like the Sealed Knot virtually forced into equality by the politics which are deeply ingrained at the higher echelon?? Personally now, I really dont care one way or the other as I am no longer in the Knot but in my opinion there would have been very few. and especially not mounted (Just cos they own a horse)
    It has never been acceptable to bully anyone verbally or behind their backs in any group I have been in and this would certainly have been sorted.
    Some of us can be pretty anal about what we do in relation to the amount of time and money we spend on it. If when I did WW” Military Police I saw another chap looking like a bag of shit I would quietly offer advice and if he chose later to ignore it I would probably tell him he is an insult to members of my family who served as Military Police. Its one thing dressing as a fancy Pirate its different portraying a late period such as WW1 WW2 we know right kit and wrong kit. By the same token Pirate purists frown upon bucket top boots. I ignore that as i like them and as i am technically on land most of the time as a Privateer I can wear what I like. I think anyone coming into any aspect of this hobby should feel their way into it carefully. There are some fantastic people out there all having fun but there are many arseholes as well spoiling it.

  49. Safe to say that bullies make broad assumptions and are themselves short on research.
    My group reenacts the WW2 Japanese army in the Philippines and we get a lot of flappy lip from one Allied reenactor in particular, from how we suit up to how we carry arms to the shade and cut of our uniforms being too “allied” because of the catch-all phrase “research/evidence shows that…”
    The guy turned out to be a bigot who had no social life outside of reenacting, whose “research” was limited to period field manuals and regulations, and who skipped the part of combat and logistical pragmatism and practicality. And he put off many potential recruits.
    He was so much a bigot he was alienating the other allied reenactors. Got to the point that he became a joke and the other reenactors would purposely set him off just to watch him rave like a fuhrer.

  50. Interesting in that the word “Bullies” or “Bullied” is so often used to describe someone who does not like what you do or how you do it and has the gall to say so. Now we have the introduction of bigotry and sexism as a possible excuse for improper impressions or tactics? Why is it that people are so easily “offended” when a good old fashoned “F^(% Y@#” goes a long way in getting those people out of your face?

    Reenacting is a reflection of the society it comes from. Unfortunately, now it seems as though the politics of feelings has made it’s arrival. Not only do we need to worry about uniforms, clothing, tactics and then current events; now we have to worry about political correctness as well. If you’ve done your research and know what you are doing with an impression then what’s the problem and why does it matter what some uninformed individual thinks of it? On the other hand, if you want to do Living History that isn’t correct (such as as the inappropiate use of women in the ranks as a soldier) then go to a NPS sponsored event where political correctness trumps historical accuracy and enjoy. On the other hand if you have a private tactical event and it’s decided women in the ranks is fine to go for it.

    It’s reenacting and ultimately a hobby and if sexists, bigots, racists or whomever are there who here is so pompous as to say they have no right to be in it? Are you not engaing in the very same action you condemn others for? Of course those folks I just mentioned usually seem to be “bullied” out after a short while so I guess “bullying” is OK for that?

  51. I also have been bullied by someone who thought they knew everything about how ladies dressed in the Civil War Era. She made me cry many times and I finally decided to prove her wrong and stand up for my accuracy. She finally stopped and started coming to me and we would have conversations on different things.
    I say stay away become accurate in your impression and put it in their face with your head up and a smile on your face. They have lost, you have gained and others will come around in your behalf.

  52. Please be advised that “concerning” is a preposition, not an adjective. Thank you very much.

    • concerning (kənˈsɜːnɪŋ)

      — prep
      1. about; regarding; on the subject of

      — adj
      2. worrying or troublesome

      Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
      2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins

      Nice try.

  53. In response to the comment left by ‘VA’…so, you’re saying it’s fine for sexists, bigots and racists to be happily included in re-enactment events? Because that’s what it sounded like to me. And as for the sentence ‘inappropriate use of women in the ranks as a soldier…wow! Everyone, male or female, has the right to take part as they wish – gender doesn’t matter as long as they try their best to look accurate and properly represent the period they are portraying.

  54. FARB. Quit yer whining and enjoy yer hardtack. It’s not a hobby. It’s historical interpretation. Do it right or save it for Halloween. If you don’t do it right for the public the first time…. When will you? Hobby. Take your hobby somewhere else. All you do as a FARB is misinform people. They learn nothing about history other than you have nothing better to do on a weekend.

    • Correct me if i’m wrong but this is the comment section on putting a stop to bullying. You sir are being a bully and it’s not welcome. It you don’t have something encouraging and helpful to say then don’t say it at all.
      Hobby
      A hobby is a regular activity done for pleasure – typically during leisure – e.g., collecting themed items and objects, engaging in creative and artistic pursuits, playing sports. Continual participation in a hobby can provide substantial skill and knowledge about it.

  55. Prim having PROBELMS

    I have been re-enacting the civil war for 12 years (being 21) and most of those have been great. I have a close living history group and a wonderful traveling one as well. However I have run into two problems doing this hobby.
    The very first time I re-enacted the director was outfitting me. When I told her I was a size 14 she gave me a surprised look. “you’ll need to lose some weight. We don’t have much for your size.” I was pretty shocked. In retrospect it also was a good thing to tell a 10 year girl either. Years later I still have trouble with my weight. It makes me feel reluctant to take pictures because I feel I will make them look bad.
    The second problem I have is that i’m bi-racial half black half white. You can imagine the powder keg that must be for the civil war. People from re-enactors to spectators can be quite offensive.
    Some don’t mean to be they’re just curious about why I would chose to be in the hobby. Others seem to think i was forced into it, they’ll quietly say” you know you don’t have to do this if you aren’t comfortable.”
    Others are downright rude calling me mammy or making gone with the wind jokes. They nick pick at all my clothes (which are all period correct) and information (which has been painstakingly researched). I’ve learned to react with dignity,explaining to the curious, being polite to the well-meaning but accidentally offensive, snarky with jokers, and ignore the deliberately hurtful.
    I love this hobby. It’s my deepest passion and I refuse to be bullied away from it. What angers me is when people get indignant that blacks don’t want to re-enact the civil war. I met many that would love to join but meet a bigot and walk away from the hobby. How can you learn to love a hobby when the people in it bully you?
    I have a group who sincerely love their members and will not put up with someone hurting me emotional or otherwise. Others are not so lucky. If you see a person of other race re-enacting be kind. Courage comes in all forms and it takes courage to be a mixed race re-enactor.

  56. ‘Templar’ or ‘Knights Templar’ groups are those that I have found to be most elitist, as they seem to combine their re-enactment passions with a religious agenda…

  57. I’m glad I’m a Napoleonic re-enactor in Britain: some of these stories are horrendous, and I have yet to come across anyone with such bigoted and out of date views as some expressed here.

  58. I think the one bigot that has been exposed here is you RE. You certainly seem ready to condemn anyone on a mere personal whim. You do advocate that authenticity does not matter as long as someone “try their best” and “Everyone, male or female, has the right to take part as they wish…”. That is, of course, unless, YOU disagree with anything they say, think or the politics they keep. That is pretty much a working definition of intolerance and discrimination. I think that there may be quite a few folks here are equally glad that you are some kind or Napoleonic re-enactor in Britain. Celebrate the diversity of opinion expressed here whether you like it or not; that is as long as hypocrisy is not an obstacle.

  59. Yes I get it from those I care about deeply but they don’t understand my desire to get to authenticity when they don’t want too. Being a single lady I’ve put up with more than I should but I am tuff enough to ignore their comments and let those folks that have my same passion know who I am. I grew up being bullied in school but I’m confident enough to know they can’t keep me down when their adgendas are different from my own. Don’t let people keep you from enjoying your life. Sometimes we have to face closing the door on those we really care about.

    • Good for you! It is very often those who seek to improve their own portrayals or impressions who are the subject of ridicule from those who do not seek to improve. There is a lot of nonsense from all corners.

  60. All the years I have been in this hobby I have never failed to come across people with ‘issues’

  61. I belong to a group the reenacts Victorian London and also the California Gold Rush times. We have a costume mistress who approves all of our costumes and accessories prior to wearing them. If it is not to the standards set forth in the clear instructions, she will inform you to fix it before it is allowed to be worn. She does give some leeway to new reenactors as they are learning as they go and the cost can be quite overwhelming. We are also instructed that it is not our place to correct someone on their clothing. If one is really concerned, they are to approach her and she will deal with.
    Many people in the reenactment world haven’t done the research necessary to be giving out rash criticism to those less knowledgeable. I can’t believe someone could be so cruel or childish to do such a thing and risk alienating someone from this great hobby. We are all doing our best and no one has the right to dash that.

  62. I’ve been a WWII reenactor for over 10 years and the razzing the guys gave each other always bothered me as it sometimes seemed a bit excessive. I never thought of it as bullying! Thanks for the eye-opener. I am no longer going to stand for this sort of behavior between the guys in my unit. (Some teasing, yes. Bullying, no.) I’ll be standing up against it from now on. :)

  63. I am part of the Society for Creative Anachronism and have been for over 20 years. There have been many times when my attempts at various projects or activities were laughed at, both behind my back and almost to my face. I say almost because most of the time it was people pointing as I walked by and laughing, or more commonly making an over loud derogatory comment to the person beside them. These go basically, “Look at that. Isn’t that just dreadful, ugly, awful, wrong, etc.” these comments are disguised as conversation or gossip with a companion but are said loudly enough to be overheard and quite often over heard by the very person they are criticizing or ridiculing. This too, in my opinion, is bullying and needs to cease, both for myself and others.

  64. I belong to a group called the Society for Creative Anachronism: a Medieval Reenactment organization. People are constatly bullied and ridiculed for being different, but nothing is ever done about it because it it often the upper eschelons ["Knights, "Peers", etc] who are doing the bullying so people will look the other way or try to silence those who protest against the bullies. “Honor” and “Chivalry” are a sham: it’s a good ol boys’ club full of backstabbers, drunks, and cheaters.

  65. I don’t even speak to my group any more. I’ll never touch re-enactment again. It’s the most malicious environment I’ve known. I also think I know this person and it has nothing to do with “farb”. They (the members bullying) are self centered, spiteful, and elitist.

  66. I have a lot of friends in a reenactment group, and I have long been fascinated by it, especially the fighting side of it. What I experienced was … off putting. I was actively excluded from the two training sessions I attended, by one of the more senior and esteemed fighters. My husband, who accompanied me to the sessions, was welcomed with open arms. In addition, around the same time a friend (part of the group) made pointed comments about how I resided in a different catchment area and if I wanted to do fighting I should go to my area’s group (where I knew nobody).

    I always laugh bitterly to myself when I come across someone waxing poetic about what an ACCEPTING group they are

  67. Me too.
    I have known and worked with reenactors for decades and several years ago I was searching for a group to join. There were a few possible choices, other time periods I loved, but my heart pulled me into the group my boyfriend was involved with. It was all very new to me, I had zero experience with that time period. At first everyone seemed lovely & welcoming. I had a hard time getting answers to my questions about what to do to make my clothing/kit – I figured it was just their lives being so busy and the distance being an issue. So I researched and did the best I can to make myself look exactly like the photos on their website. My goal was to look just like them and I did very well. At the first event the Ladies had some opinions on my clothing, things needing to be altered – totally understandable. But I had a very hard time getting specific details on how *exactly* to cut the bodice ect. I again had trouble getting answers to specific questions, e-mails and phone calls not answered. I started to think that maybe it was deliberate, then said to myself that it was silly to think that, They do not even know you well to have decided against you. So for the next event I had made a new gown, way better then the first I thought, cut using all of the advice they had given me and following all the posted rules on their web site’s clothing guides. I couldn’t wait to show the Ladies, they seemed so hard to impress, I thought I did well. Nope. One of the Ladies and I had a discussion about my new gown (which I had to begin) and she said it was much better then the first. End of a very short conversation as she ran off to tent to her kids and get away from me as quickly as possible. Never finding the time to speak with me again that entire weekend. I thought I did well but no. I got a message from my boyfriend the day after the event that the other woman in the group says I am never to wear that gown again because it is wrong but did not tell me WHY it was wrong! I made him get an answer as to WHY and it was the dyed fiber. Now my extensive research hoping to prove her wrong has thus far proven her to be correct – but – it would have been so very nice of them to have had that info in the fabric & clothing guides on the group website. By then i knew for sure that these two Ladies especially, who had run off many women in the past, were hoping I would go away from their lack of support and general disdain. Their dislike of me was never based on me as a person but a combination of my involvement with my boyfriend and what I do for a living (as if that has to do with anything).

    So here we are, several years after that. They are gone, off to other groups after so much drama. I hung in there, researched and questioned every thing. I will never be done researching and am constantly learning *BUT* I have made a ton of loaner clothing for the group and try my best to welcome newcomers. To not treat others as they treated me.

    I am not innocent nor perfect. I hated those Ladies in return for the way they treated me and it became a war. There have also been some newcomers that I did not like but it was because they only wanted to portray someone which did not at all work with the group’s scenario or they ended up causing fights in camp. We have definitely had enough with the stupid fights.

    My advice to newbies is to join a group with a set commander, one person in charge (elected or a benevolent dictatorship). Someone has got to be the “decider” when the stupid arguments crop up. Second bit of advice – leave the religion, politics, biases/racism/bigotry, drug/alcohol abuse at home and join a group that follows these rules as well. I have seen wonderful groups break up over these arguments and issues.

  68. I recently was hounded from a group because in real life I am by sworn oath to wear a military award to any ceremonys I attend, that the group uses as “knights regalia” and if I was to wear them to an event/ceremony/feast, ect. I would be asked to remove the offending item as it cheapened minimized their similar award.. REALLY?…

    • I would think that depends on the item being worn. If the item was not part of the original uniform, then why *should* it be worn? Do historical reenactments count as ceremonies? Not knowing the details, it sort of sounds like it’s a matter of adhering to historical accuracy *or* adhering to a real life oath, as the two cannot co-exist?

  69. I’ve reenacted for 15 years (ACW, WW1, WW2, medieval, and now F&I) and lived in ACW “mecca” for 14 of those years. Some of these stories are bullying, some are just old fashioned being jerks, and others are cases of whining, in my opinion (anyone more authentic than you is a hardcore jerk and anyone less authentic is a farb, as we used to joke). Life emulates art, as they say, and so does reenacting. There are groups and events out there to suit all levels of authenticity and impressions. Support the ones you choose to, ignore the ones you choose not to. Vote with your feet, and your hard earned money.

    Have I and my ACW unit been made fun of? Oh, you bet your sweet bippy. We are stronger than that, and just focus on ourselves, our research, and having a memorable weekend with friends and talking with the public. The only people we can control are ourselves. If we see a guy from another unit struggling with something, one of us will use TACT and offer some pointers. Reenactimg is supposed to be recreating events and people as they were. If we can help someone with that, or GET help respectfully, we’re all for it in our unit. Besides, you try being a zouave sometime, if you want to see how other reenactors make fun of you. ;-)

    There’s infighting and animosity in reenacting, and there always will be. Don’t let it define you, your unit, or your hobby.

    With candor & respect,
    Shaun

  70. Being bullied is not confined to relative newcomers. I am about to leave a medieval re-enactment group in which I have been involved for about 7 years because of bullying. My advice is that if you can’t resolve the problem and it’s starting to make you unhappy – it’s time to find a new hobby.

  71. we called the bullies Authenticity Police (not a term of admiration). If someone makes a genuine attempt to make the type of garb that fits the scene, then we should praise them for their effort and support their attempts to improve (cloth type, pattern/sewing, accessories, etc.) to the best their economic bracket can afford.

    However, it’s hard not to poke fun of people who make *no attempt* at fitting in garb-wise. I’m minded of the party-types who do things like donning a loincloth made out of a towel and modern belt and claiming that “Period” in any re-enactment scene — just so they can come in and get drunk. While I don’t condone bullying, it’s hard not to laugh (to their face) when it’s that ludicrous.

    In between those two, I think we should err on the side of human kindness and encouragement/support to meet the community “standards” with growth.

    • A dear departed friend used to refer to those folks as the “Halloween Weenie Roast” people. The ones with the lawn chairs and plastic coolers. :)

  72. Victoria K. Brown

    I truly believe that the bullying that happens in our school is getting progressively worse. It is worsening due to the example many adults nowadays set for children. There are adults out there that live their lives as bullies. Whether it be with their jobs, their neighborhood, volunteer organizations and so on. So it stands to reason there will be bullies in historical re-creation/re-enactment. What ive discovered within the society that i participate in, that many of the bullies that i have dealt with were bullied children. Bullied because they didnt fit in to the cliques and groups of their school. They joined, as adults, groups and hobbies that was a perfect setting for what they were bullied about in school. They had knowledge and abilities that benefitted others willing to learn and participate. They recieved recognition and accolades which in turn became power. Their power became abusive and bullying. They now do to others what they spent their young life living. Some realize they are doing this and call it “payback” and feel vindicated. Others dont realize what they have become because it feels so good to be top dog.

    In my 7 some years with my SCA life, it has been up and down. As a newcomer, those i connected with tried to control my SCA life as to what they thought it should be or what they wanted. I felt cared about and cared for until i spoke with even more people and found out that what i was living and doing in my activity was bull. So i stepped out of the box i was being controlled in and found an even bigger world of this activity. I have dealt with a small group that was the biggest bunch of backstabbing, lieing, using to get to the top, leaving victims in their wake a**holes.

    There is one woman that i befriended in the past few years, that i felt was being picked on. Before i got a chance to know her, i was being told things about her. Well instead of judging her, i chose to get to know her. I helped her sew while she was ill to get ready for a big event. I took a stand beside her when i felt she was being rudely treated. As i did all this, this womans behavior and attitudes come to the surface. She apparantly had some ….disorders/disabilities/conditions. Okay so she makes mistakes and doesnt understand some of the things she says and does. WRONG!!! She was vicious and cutthroat. She went out of her way to lie about people. Accusing people of things and making herself a victim of things that never happened. She uses her disability/disorder to rally sympathizers to protect her, hover over her. Ive managed to walk away from this person because i witnessed her vile behavior away from the sheep she has gathered. Ive listened to her rant of how she was going to take individuals down and destroy their SCA life. She has. But the moment she is called on the carpet to face her actions, she has a breakdown and sends her husband and laurel to answer for the actions. Rather than standing her up and say to her, time to stop this and woman up, they enable her. It is sad that so many judge others based on the psychotic rants of this woman. This wasnt about me. Many were harmed. I didnt become a target until i said …enough. Then i became judged for not being tolerant. Sorry, i cant do that. I can not tolerate seeing others hurt/harmed. Eventually i became ostracized by my local group for standing up, speaking up and not backing down. When it come to me being told what i could and could not put on my facebook page, that was the end all. Really!?!? You do know your pointy little hat and pretty scrolls dont mean crap in the real world?

    Just as i was about to walk away from something i loved so much. Invested blood, sweat, tears, money, heart and soul into, i accidently took my SCA life into a new direction. And i mean accidently. I came into contact and company with some individuals that have made my activity….fun, laugh-filled,stress-free. Through them i have enhanced my knowledge, abilities and experiences. Made new friends and have had the best 1 1/2 years in the SCA than i have had in 7 years.

    These people are out there. They exist in our everyday lives as they do in our hobbies and activities. What we must do to maintain doing what we love, is to not let the bullies take us down. We dont have to give up. I managed to walk away from the ugly. I stepped around it and moved forward. As adults we can rationalize and make better choices. Unlike children, who become scared, confused and frustrated on what to do.

    I believe in my heart that historical re-enactment / re-creation groups are important. All of them. Its away of teaching and sharing where we came from. Technology is overshadowing real education. Politics, political correctness and budget cuts are exhausting our teachers. We are losing our GOOD teachers and hiring those willing to be paid to babysit.

    If we can work past the bullies, we can teach, share and learn.

  73. Yep. Been there. Experiences that. Tried to talk to the person face to face like an adult and was told they weren’t doing it but continues to hear about things. I tried to tell higher ups what was going on, but nothing got done. Finally took a few month break from the group. The person seemed to move on to bullying someone else and THEN something got done. I cane back and things seem a bit better.
    I just keep to myself and only try to associate with people who are in my close circle. I used to put myself out there, volunteer for stuff, but I was never in the “popular clique”, so it didn’t matter what I did, I could do no right. I do what I enjoy doing and don’t try to please anyone but me. I don’t volunteer for anything, I don’t talk to anyone, and I don’t try to tell higher ups when there is a problem because there is no point. It’s happened to me and my husband multiple times with different people.

  74. Was also going to add that these people went as far as to say my miscarriage/pregnancy never happened. people unfriended and shunned me in my time of grief. Someone even went as far as to call me a bitch and physically assault me. Bullying in reenactment is NOT limited to only “the game”.

  75. I was active in the SCA for a number of years, and decided that the politics and the fact that a person threatened my wife in her SCA job, who I thought was a friend of ours, was just too much like work to be around. I never really thought about the bullying aspect, since I did not care what someone said behind my back, because The people that mattered knew me and knew my capabilities and philosophy on life. I was told about the back biting, but I never had to do anything about it, it was usually handled by friends who told the truth about the matter. Bullying is wrong, and should not happen, but bullies only have as much power over you as you let them have. Just my opinion and a philosophy that brought me through many, many years of being on the outside.

  76. I used to play a game called Amtgard in Houston. They seemed kind and fun at the time, but I found out about the shady politics and back stabbing as I attended more events. All of the higher ups talk shit about and sabotage each other through a series of proxies. On top of that, the newbies that try to advance without playing the kiss ass games end up being bullied out through online harassment and withholding awards.

  77. I have been a living historian since 1974 yes I am old, one of the older ones in the hobby from my area which is Washington Crossing area. I do both Rev and CW impressions. Two CW and seven Rev War. I am a master historian and published author. In all my years in the hobby I have seen many cases of bullying by thread counters,superior types, pseudo -intellectuals and just down right nasty people. The basic run of human nature.

    There are many more good people then bad and you just have to sift them out. I do not join units, I find the petty politics juvenile. However, when starting out it is best to join a unit to learn your business and then if there is a problem seek another unit with good people who are concerned with teaching good history. In my case after all these years I can be an independent living historian who gets paid to show up and preform my impressions. So based on that here is some advise from the old guy.

    The hobby is expensive and starting out is a slow process if your finances are meager. If some one makes fun of you because you are not up to snuff they are not worth paying any attention to.

    Safety first! An authentic impression is great but there are certain things that are dangerous. I never use shoes with leather soles. On dry grass and hard surfaces they will case a fall. I put a thin rubber sole on all my shoes. No ram rods on the field and no sharp bladed weapons. These are a few of the important ones. If some one picks on you for these things or others ignore them or say I value my health more then being authentic, after all we do not use real bullets do we.

    The first and for most thing is the purpose of the hobby is to teach HISTORY.not only to the public but to new fellow living historians.Good units set standards in writing and give you time to meet them. If you see a mistake kindly point it out in a way that helps the person understand what a better impression it would make.

    I think the main reason for impression bullying is a superior mind set that I am much more knowledgeable them him/her and I can use my knowledge to show him how smart I am and thus have power over that less knowledgeable person and gain respect.They do this in a harsh manner. They may be right and you can gain knowledge from these people.but you can never like them for it but in time you will be as good if not better then that person. so what I am trying to say you have to be a little tough skinned and in the end you will make out.well.

    Do not let the bullying drive you out of the hobby we need you. You can go independent or get a good friend to go with you. To be a independent you pick a historic person and study him and play that person. If you get real good you can get paid to to do your impression at events.

    Pick some one know one has heard of and become that person. I play Tim Murphy, Francis Hopkinson, William Mariner , Issac Coran for the Rev war and Wyman White US Sharpshooter for the CW. Never heard of them, most have not and you get to teach some real history.. Tim Murphy was the greatest rifleman of the Rev War and few know who he is.. If you have the money pick a very expensive impression no one else will do. You will be very sought after so there are ways to beat the bully.

    I hope this helps and hang in there do not let bullies take anything away from you..

    • Stanley, great comment and great advice too! This is actually the route I’m leaning toward because my situation is rather unique.

      Thank you folks who are supportive and to those who aren’t – Go jump in a lake!

      The next event I went to (The burning of Kingston 2013) turned out much better. Several of the guys said my uniform looked very authentic and even complimented me on my crutch masking techniques. (They couldn’t tell I was a chick until I started talking. So that was good. I’m still working on the voice thing.)

      Any how!

      So to those who who commented in here who think I’m probably “a farb”. Ahh stick it in your ear. I know I did a real good job, because I did extensive research before I started putting this uniform together, and as for those who have a problem with me playing a soldier?

      I noticed something interesting in my research. I’ve found several incidents where they’ve done grave excavations of soldiers (usually because they have to move them to make a parking lot or something) and on several occasions they’ve found more female skeletons than expected. Women have gone off to war for centuries, and just because they didn’t record their experience, in “period sources” doesn’t mean they weren’t there!

      The guy at Saratoga kept saying to me “Please tell me your not offended, but we don’t allow women to dress as soldiers in the BAR (Brigade of the American Revolution) I told him, Well you know what – I am offended because I’m the veteran of a modern conflict and if my blood is red enough to spill on a 20th century battlefield – than yeah, I got a real problem with someone who tells me I can’t stand around dressed as a redcoat and talk about the American Revolution. He cringed when I said that, but still insisted that because this was his organization’s event – I needed to leave. So next time that happens I’m going to tell them that I don’t care who they are or what their permit says. It doesn’t trump Civil Rights Law 1963.

      Yeah, I’ll be a marked “man”; but I probably am already.

      I haven’t done any events this past season due to medical issues with my son, his summer school and no one to watch him. (He’s autistic and won’t participate.) This coming year though, I’m planning to get to some events, as I’ve secured some out of house respite for my son, so I’m excited for this next season.

      I’ve thought a bit about this since all of this has happened and came to the conclusion that I’m just going to keep working on my persona, gathering information to share with visitors and not care what idiots may have to say to me. I’ve got some books to read and linen for some “non-wool” small clothes to put together. I also have enough material to make another regimental coat, should I feel so ambitious these next couple of months. (Although I need to order a little bit more dye. Yeah, I went “hard core” with linen thread and even dyed the matter red myself. That was an adventure and I enjoyed the experience.)

  78. victoria k. brown

    Thats the point ive gotten to. I dont care anymore that is said and done. My closests dear friends know me. And we just laugh off some of what comes our way thru the rumor mill. Its at the point that if someone is believing the psycho rants of an abusing, ladder climbing, pathological liar without knowing me at all….then i feel sorry for them that their life is so boring that things like this is their entertainment. They are pathetic sheep. I have finally learned over these past years what can and does happen and what i will and will not tolerate. I love this part of my life and im not letting anyone run me from it. I will always reach out to newcomers and welcome them and direct them into a good direction for correct information of what they seek for themselves. My theory and thought process is….give newcomers good info, they will take it and use it as the tools they need to flourish in the SCA at their own speed and desires, and not at the control or bullying of someone else.

  79. Downtrodden melee

    It isn’t limited to bad costuming(or bad anything), or to women. In the combat side of it in earlier centuries. Many of us have left our group due to so-called superiors constantly talking down to those they’re supposed to be training (I say supposed to be, because much of us trained ourselves and each other and sought help from other groups while the ‘superiors’ in our own group were too lazy to do so). On the 1 off little training fight they’ll sometimes give you, they’ll give you restrictions that they themselves won’t follow, they’ll tell you not to strike them hard while they’ll flog you, and when despite the unfairness you manage to land a hit – instead of congratulating you they’ll verbally defend themselves about how they would’ve beaten you in that situation – as if it’s some sort of discredit to them if they ever get hit in training. This was put up with long enough to get out onto the field and while there were still others to fallback on – but as the good eggs leave the group – it gets less and less tolerable. The final straw came when many of our new training routines were banned by the superiors – meaning we could not improve. In short – they want members in which they can easily beat on the field (without having to train hard themselves) – they don’t want equals to enjoy the hobby with.

  80. I just ate some cheese. I made it myself, to a period recipe.

    Respect mah authenticitah!

    Seriously, I made a lot of my own things, to my own research plus the knowledge of respected local experts. Don’t need to be a farb to experience dismal maturity and outright slander and anti-social behavior from reenactors. The hobby seems to attract a lunatic fringe.

    May I offer you some cheese?

  81. I used to be very active in a reenactment group and, particularly when I began, I received harassment about my “lack of authenticity” in my attire. Needless to say, I found it annoying as well as insulting since I was making the best effort I could. And the naysayers were very critical without being helpful in ANY sense of the word. Ssssooo, here’s what I did. When the nasty critiques (and nasty was in some cases the kindest term for it) began, I would “appear” to listen and then respond with: “Well, obviously, since I don’t know what I am doing and you do, why don’t you make or give me appropriate garments? I will wear them with pride and tell everyone that you were kind enough to help me.” Well, after doing that about three or four times, those folks simply left me alone. When I see someone obviously having issues with appropriate garments, etc., I offer help and advice; sewing lessons, online resources, my personal library, etc. To me, there is simply no excuse for that type of behavior. And the people who perpetrate and perpetuate such behavior are the same ones that cannot understand why their group has no newcomer retention? Duh!

  82. I was in my late teens and took what I thought was jokes too far with a bunch of friends. I got told they might leave the hobby because of it- I was horrified and never realised I was pushing that hard.

    I am disgusted with my actions- I was a pr***.

    I don’t think people realise the little things can add up and everyone in the hobby is responsible by allowing it to happen around them if not challenged.

  83. I was forced out of a unit I was in and my friends in the unit were turned against me by a reenactor bully who even set up a public redicule post against me on Facebook his name was graham bandy.

  84. Haven’t read all this, I dislike bullies, but I feel that in todays society, we’ve bred a bunch of pussies, who cares about bullies, either ignore them, or speak up for yerself…

    Anyway, you try telling those lords of the hobby who have been in since the late 70s and early 80s that they don;t really know everything that they claim to know, and I can tell you I have done that, and you are a “marked man”, then there’s the “serious re-enactors” who look down their noses at those they see as inferior, but in the end, they’re too old, too fat, too bald, even though they might have their too clean, pressed and new uniform, or beautifully painted and ‘correct” stenciled jeep, it’s all a load of nonsense, and take them to task, which they don’t like…

  85. I have wanted to reenact the civil war since I was a small child, as I grew up with stories of my ancestor and his service in the war. I finally was afforded the opportunity to join a unit in the smal town I grew up in. They even host an event there! Also my friends I literally grew up with are members, so after my own military service I joined. It was great for about a year and a half. But things changed for several reasons, one being that I am married and had only a 2 sweater sports car to drive and could not carry more than my own get and my wife to events. So they treated me like a third wheel. And not being part of the “founding family” I was not welcome most times, as I ha in many of occasion asked the people to give adiquite directions to events and memorial services, also if we were following them, not to drive so fast as to leave us behind. Yet it was all but ignored. So the last straw came when the so called “commanded” started speaking with my wife (and others) in a sexually explicit manner. As well as him taking about me and making accusations behind my back. So I flipped my lid and blew up and left. Found out later that I was subsiquintly “kicked out”.
    Lost a friendship that spanned over 2 decades, and a childhood dream because of them. And since my friend was romantically involved with a “founding family” he went that way. She already had me on her s$&t list because of the harsh words I expressed describing an animal abuser that nearly decappatated a dog.
    Long story short, I no longer reenact and I haven’t spoken with my friend in nearly 2 years. All because of the unit involved.

  86. victoria k. brown

    When i began my time with my SCA….it crushed me to hear a less than nice remark when i worked so hard. It wasnt often. Just a couple of times. One day….afteer finishing my persona garb and wearing for the first time, i was approached ( no one i had met before ) pointed out the she believed a portion of my garb was incorrect. I smiled and politely thanked her for her input and i would look into it further. As she walked away…..i called out…..” NICE NIKES ” She stormed off huffing and puffing. From that moment of standing up for myself….so to speak….yes a bit passive aggressive, i felt empowered to be me, as i am. Take it or leave it. Ive decided if ever approached again in a negative manner, that person better be period correct head to toe. And even have linen swaddle wrapped about their butt for underwear. If not….get out of my face.

  87. The SCA is a magnet for Bullies.and it’s far too often overlooked. I’ve seen it used to chase off people by those thinking the prospective member is “ugly”, “talks funny”, or is Gay. But then the bullies smile and talk nice to everyone else, so people ignore the problem.
    It’s also used by those seeking privilege, rank, and power in the Society. They will deliberately attack people they consider to be below them and use them to advance their ranking. All it takes is a few little white lies and sucking up to the right people. Even though people see this, they will refuse to do anything or say anything besides telling the bullied parties “don’t rock the boat” and “don’t make trouble” I suppose everyone is afraid if they stand up to the bullying, they will be next. Or maybe by ignoring the bully they too can suck up and move up in rank.
    But don’t talk to the King or Queen: they are too busy reveling in the accolades of their rank and being sucked up to by others of rank and privilege.
    The SCA has become people seeking power & privilege and doing everything they can to hang on to it.

    • NAILED IT!!! That’s exactly what happened when I stood up. I was asked not to return. And everyone else just looked away, or said “that’s how he is”. Even the ones I’ve thought would have had my back through thick and thin, chose the rank over the 20 years we’ve been together. Standing up against that cost me a great deal, 20 year friendship, (I’m now 31, it’s been 2 years) an dream of reenacting since I could remember. At least since the mid 80s. But someone has to stand up.

  88. Yes. SCA. I was bullied behind my back by my local group. And bullied to my face by another. It was like high school all over again. Well, I am an adult not a child. I have a mouth. I told anyone who would listen about the bullying. It finally stopped. My philosophy is never leave the group that is doing the bullying. Open your mouth tell the truth. Stick with it. Do not interfere with them. Do not try to stop them. Let them keep doing it. Soon, others will see it too and wise up. Then the bully, by her own words and deeds, gets cold shouldered out of the game by peer pressure.
    It is satisfying to see bully hang themselves with their own karmic rope!

  89. Typical reenacting “horror stories”…in every unit you can find lots of different people, including those who deserve to stay alone since the back-stabbing attitude they have towards people in general. Afterall, reenacting is a hobby, everyone is supposed to have FUN, and when this doesn’t happen…just leave it. Don’t get yourself into big arguments, headaches, and whatever, for some stupid people.

  90. Outstanding article, sadly it will never get thru to the bullies that what they do is WRONG and seditious to reenacting as a whole. Your article was posted on the FB farb page and here is what the consensus was:

    Patrick Rinker “People need to grow a backbone and do what they need to do instead of weep about all their lives and not improve… WE DO NOT NEED TO BRING THE “No place for hate” BS into the hobby! So make it pure again!”

    And this:

    Richard Salvucci “Meh sounds like a bunch a whiney farbs crying. If you don’t like it make your impression better instead of crying about it on the internet. This is exactly what is wrong with society today, kids are whiney selfish, self-centered and they feel entitled to everything, but they don’t want to work for any of it and it is never their fault it’s always those other people. So here is an idea if you are a farb and you get called out on it take some responsibility and change your impression. If you don’t then don’t cry about it when you get ridiculed for having a crappy impression.”

    This:

    Richard Salvucci “If they don’t listen as most farbs don’t then again don’t cry when you get ridiculed. The whole article stems from a girl who is probably farby and her boyfriend who can’t accept they are farbs.”

    More:

    Robert F Johnson “Thin skin has no place in the hobby.”

    Yet more:

    Michael A Haggerty “New Rules- Every unit MUST carry around a box of tissues in medic bag. The Unit medic will act as a “hugger” During the safety briefing at ALL events – sensitivity training will be mandatory. No harsh or mean words can ever be used. If someone does have “hurt feelings” the event will stop and a discussion round table will be held to ensure the mean words are not used ever again.
    How do ppl like this function in the real word!? You feel bullied over a hobby?! Really! Whats’ next, a study of mico-aggression in the reenacting community? If some criticism bothers you that much, you should take up a new hobby like Mine Craft.”

    More:

    Jason Sloate “Oh, and bleeding heart liberals did not start this, assholes did.”

    More:

    Brandon MacArthur Vaughn “I have read articles in the past few months about bullying, veterinarians, nurses, doctors, athletes, factory workers, river guides, students and now reenactors. Seems bitching about how mean everyone is and how they hurt your feelings is pretty trendy. My advice is grow up and get over it.”

    I ahve been the victim of their mouths too….of course they NEVER say a word to my face….BTW, most of what I wear in garrison are original items but they find fault with it anyway. I am also completely appalled at the treatment of women in this hobby. I’d be willin to bet the farm that if anyone said what they say about females in the hobby to their wives they would be screaming at the top of their lungs that they have been wronged and something needs to be done.

    In closing, excellent article!!!

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