DISLIKE AND SUBTERFUGE: A LOOK AT PROGRESSIVES
I have been reading an article available on the internet about a reenactor’s “refusal” to back up progressives because he feels they are being bullies, that they are being snarks (my word, not his), that they re trying to tell other people how to behave and how to kit themselves out. “Progressive” is a term that is used by—and against—reenactors who try to be accurate in their portrayals. He is speaking of the eighteenth century, but what he says has impact upon any reenactor, including those who do the Viking Age.
It is a very infuriating article not precisely because of the man’s beliefs but because of the way he expresses them. And the way that he can totally ignore—or perhaps not see—some of what I consider to be the most vital aspects about the progressive movement.
He notes that some people who want to become involved in the hobby are poor. That is certainly true. However, the fact of the matter is that you should try to align the class of your impression with your ability to pay. Even in history, it was more expensive to dress posh! I have more respect for someone who makes a good simple woolen overtunic, perhaps in the style that Þor Ewing describes for slaves in Viking Clothing, than for someone who does an inappropriate posh design with insufficient inappropriate fabrics, who cuts corners and who tries to portray above his station.
What I believe is that there is a need to have different societies with different standards. Different Authenticity Regs. A person interested in getting into the hobby can choose the level of accuracy that he wants to attain. It is not right in any sense for someone to join a society and then dismiss these regs as being too restrictive, any more than it is right for someone from another society to lecturer a person on what he should wear, based on the critic’s society’s authenticity regs and not those of the other’s!
Knowing the authenticity regs and abiding by them is essential for successful membership. A member has essentially signed a contract and agreed to abide by the regulations. Anyone who has agreed with what they are going to represent to the MoPs and then to complain they cannot do it or to refuse outright to adhere to these standards is being a selfish and dishonorable malcontent. Attempt to change the standards, but abide by them until they are changed, or leave the society altogether. These are honorable action!
In other words, a progressive whose society has high standards is not being an authenticity nazi if he tells a member of his society how to make a better presentation. He is if he says the same thing to the member of another society who has different or lower standards. They have not signed up for his interpretations! They are not, in the same way, fulfilling their contract!
The gentleman in question however refers only to The Hobby and not to different societies that may well have different standards. At larger, multiple society events, obviously, everyone needs to go by the standards of the host society. The sponsors should have, should publish and should make easily obtainable a list of the standards that are being expected. And if the level of the accuracy is not to the liking of the potential participant, then they can stay away from the event and not go around to bitch that someone’s kit is “inaccurate.”
I cannot agree with everything he says because of his scatter-gun approach. Because of his creation of straw men that can be easily demolished to favor his opinion and that he can easily demolish. He does not deal at all with how his version of The Hobby is being represented to the public. What I have found is that the people who are more stringent about their accuracy are more willing to tell MoPs that this is not how it was done, that this is safer than what was done at the time. It is the societies that have very low or no authenticity regs who say proudly We are a reenactment group when referring to their fantasy LARP, who have no real standards, and who try to pass off the farb that they do have as accuracy, I am reminded of an early fair that I officiated at for the SCA. One fighter decided that he was going to be a hero and not take any blows because, as you know, the MoPs won’t know any different. So he was areal hot dog, ignoring blows and portraying The All-Star Wrassler that he probably wanted to be. Finally, tired, he took a killing blow. Later, I was greeted by a pair of MoPs who expressed their thanks for the presentation and then, at the end, said, “And I’m glad that Mister Hero realized that he was dead…”
MoPs are often more knowledgeable about things than many of the participants commonly think! A society must have at least minimal authenticity regs! And anyone who joins them or to participate behind their ropelines must be willing to attain these standards and not complain that he is too poor to make a good showing! Lower your sights. Find something that you can afford that is accurate. We are not asking that everyone has a full, posh outfit. What we are asking is that what is being worn reaches up to and attains the accuracy standards that the participant has agreed to attain!
In the end, I suppose, I should place myself among those progressives that he dislikes so much. However, on the other hand, I only think that standards of accuracy that I attempt to attain and that I go by, that are delineated in the Authenticity Regs are pertinent only to the society which wrote and adopted them. I will never complain or unilaterally advise a member of a different society who has different or less quality of standards. They are off limits. Criticizing the members to their faces when they have not asked an opinion is not fair game!
An excellent Yahoo group of AWI Progressives is RW Progressives.