The Politics of Dancing

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“The politics of dancing… The politics of, ooh, feeling good… The politics of moving, aha… If this message’s understood” – The Reflex, lyrics, The Politics of Dancing

Four years ago, I attended my first Penguicon. To say it changed my life, or at least put a new perspective on it is an understatement. I ran home and typed out my thoughts (you can read it here).

To reiterate, things such as consent and inclusion were simply foreign to me. I am a typical Alpha Male, type-A personality IT sales guy and my peer group has always been the same. I truly feel Penguicon made me more aware of my surroundings and those that may suffer from social anxieties and people that were simply different from me. I’ve since opened my eyes to a bigger world and I sincerely feel like a better person for it…

I also couldn’t have been more impressed with the level of detail and diversity that Penguicon has and the level of service the Southfield Westin gave to this event. To me, this put Penguicon on a pedestal that is difficult to achieve in this day and age.

Mostly accurate representation

In the first year, we were simply there as attendees. We thought we threw a room party, but in all honesty, it was a Bluetooth speaker and a case of Valentine Vodka. When we saw all the other great parties, we knew we had to up our game. Not in the sense of competition, but simply to add to the overall event – we don’t do “oh my god, we suck” very well.  When we try something, and realize that we fall short (in this particular case…very, very short) …it’s simply in our nature to do better and come back stronger.  I played basketball and soccer all through school.  Dave did the same with ice hockey.  We were taught that when you fall down, you get up.  When you lose, you try harder.  When you fail, you change things until you compete better or win.

Dave and I have been throwing networking events and parties every month for the past 12 years. I have been a professional DJ for 23 years and Dave paid his way through college as a bartender. So, throwing an “80s party” with kegs and mixed drinks and 80s music was a no-brainer. I had DJ equipment, knew where to get a coil box for kegs and Dave knew how to make a drink.

We did this because it’s fun and we live for this stuff, not for the trophy or bragging rights (hell, the first trophy we got was simply a Penguicon etched wine glass).  We weren’t there for those – we did it because it’s in our nature to host events, make sure people have a good time, and do what we do.

Year two, we were given the bigger suite on floor 5 and we won again. That trophy sits proudly in the Podcast Detroit studios.

This entire time, we never talked trash, we never belittled, and we never gloated. Why? Well, this isn’t the business world – this was Penguicon. It goes against every principle that changed my outlook on life when I was introduced to this community.

With that said, this year, things changed. While we planned on doing more than a dozen panels, throwing the 80’s party, and not sleeping for 3 days…it seems we created an enemy somewhere along the way.

Apparently, this group of people went around to anyone within earshot calling us “bros” (I don’t even know what that means), “jerks” and saying that we “bought our way in”. They also accused us of a “party foul” of letting in people without a Penguicon badge. If letting in one of my best friends, my cousin and the brother of one of our regulars in at 11PM is a “party foul”, well, guilty as charged. The best part of that, all three of those people walked the halls and went into every single other party as well.  So is it a problem that something like that happened…or is it a problem because it was us?

This group also went so far as to changing how voting went for best party by putting up a couple signs with a QR code.  Yes, a QR code.  Or you could use a “tinyurl”…which wasn’t tiny at all, and was also case sensitive, so that was awesome. Needless to say, there were issues with this approach – we burned through nearly 1,000 wristbands just on our own room party (let alone any of the others that were going on), and they received…60 votes.  In total.  Sixty.  A convention with 1700 people at it and more than 1000 people attending room parties…and there were 60 votes.  Granted, we didn’t push it much.  Think we mentioned it maybe twice on Friday night and not at all on Saturday – as noted, we’re focused on having a blast and making sure others do as well…not trying to “win” something.

But apparently, sadly, there are egos in the mix and we all know how that goes.  “Important” people were around, shots (not in glasses) were fired, and Dave wound up getting dragged into conversations until nearly 5am Saturday night / Sunday morning by people who were appalled by some of the insinuations and accusations being flung in our direction…laughably by people who had no idea they were talking with some of our closest friends at the time.  Which…again…WTF is that even about?  Remember, we’re talking about throwing a stupid room party here.  We’re used to this level of ridiculousness when it comes to office politics, but this completely caught us off guard.

I texted Dave this morning and asked him if I should write this, his response summed it up perfectly: “If we’ve occupied that much space in their heads and made them into that kind of people…we’ve already won”.

I replied with, “Agreed, but to me, that’s everything Penguicon isn’t”.

We want there to be great parties, we want diversity in music and styles of parties. We loved that there was karaoke (wished I could have sung), a deep house DJ, and everything in between. That’s everything this community is about – diversity, inclusion, and fun.

To the 1,000+ people that drank 4 kegs, 37 ½ gallons of vodka, 12 bottles of shots out of 2,000 solo cups and danced all night, we salute you and thank you. To the dozens and dozens of people that told us how much fun they had, cheers. To Cass who absolutely made my night by saying my playlist was “epic” and how much fun she had, you sincerely made my night.

To those that apparently hate us, I invite you to have a beer with us and open your world to the Alpha male, type-A sales guy and the uber-geek who happened to be best friends. If it works for us, I’m sure we can find common ground and compare notes and be better…isn’t that Penguicon?

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