There comes a time in every career as a SCAdian wherein we have seen this in one form or another. Everyone has, and there are very few who would be willing to attempt to downplay it, at least, few who aren't part of the problem in the first place. The behavior I'm talking about isn't restricted to the Society by any means, you see it in the homeowners association, the workplace, and in just about every other social circle known to man. It is the behavior of "Better than you", wherein the human mind takes the willingness to improve oneself, itself a virtue, and twists it into a self-confidence booster for themselves at the expense of everyone around them. This, friends, refers to one of those many times.
I'll start this off with a little bit of a story. At an event early in the season this year that I was in attendance for, I was wandering near the merchant's row and the gate, placed very close to each other at this particular event, and noticed a rather motley but interesting vanload of people coming in at gate. I had overheard the words "New" and "Just wanted to check this out", but watched as all of them paid their gate fees, looking around rather excited and everything. A couple of them had some very basic garb, nothing particularly period, mostly your run of the mill goodwill pickup sorts of things. So my instinct of assistance kicked in, and I flagged the van over to the overflow camping area(The site had filled within two hours of gate opening that year), and helped them unload when I got them to a good camping place, slightly elevated to be as free from mud as possible(The site was a little sloppy). Having realized that it was around time for food, and I hadn't checked in in what was now at least several hours at camp, I let them know I had to take care of some camp business, and retreated to let my campmates know that I would be gone a little longer(They weren't in camp at the time, mind, apparently schedules had changed without my knowledge, but I digress). I returned to the newcomers camp after what could have only been about ten minutes total, only to find them packing back up hurriedly, with some definite anger in the air. Inquiring as to what the problem was, my heart sank. Someone had, during this group of six or seven people's setup, come and, apparently in an incredibly harsh way, critiqued the garb that the few of them were wearing, and told them that they had absolutely no place being there until they could improve their garb. The Society will likely never see that group of people again.
This story seems to be echoed everywhere I've traveled, in one form or another. And it's disturbing in a very deep way to know that we, a society that is supposed to be about education, and bringing people Into the fold, is so quick to shove people right back out of it again if they do not immediately adhere to someone's arbitrary definition of Perfect. What bothers me more is that there are those that are more than willing to downplay this issue, largely those that have been repetitively guilty of committing this crime against others in the past, when it truly does damage our society more than it does improve things.
So let's do a little math, shall we? Say the demos for a year attract in about 50 new members, an optimistic estimate at best, for your kingdom. Of those fifty members, forty are not very financially well endowed. Of the remaining ten, five have other financial commitments that take priority in their lives at first. This leaves you with about five people with a relatively liquid income, in their first year, who will put forth a very good attempt. But the Society doesn't share all of its details paid-forward by any stretch of the imagination(If you want an example of this, ask people what the period-earliest coverage the society covers, see how many different answers you get), so three of those five people will, whether it be incomplete research, or just plain misinformation, will get it absolutely wrong. So what you're left with is STILL a total of 50 people who are trying. Now, we can take the inclusive attitude of welcoming people into our households, teaching people who want to learn things, and giving information when it's requested, thereby keeping most of those 50, or we can take the arrogant route of stepping on toes and telling people "You're doing it wrong", and be left with Two.
Those of us that are pushing for period accuracy, at least in appearance, have a responsibility of education, here in the society, and that responsibility is passive education. People are not going to want to hear your diatribe about the historic accuracy of your footwear all the time, and chances are, if they do want to hear it, they will ask you. At that point, the door is Wide open.
There seems to be a disturbing sort of reversal, however, from this application. At the very same event, I wandered through the baronial area, an area that I had been told could answer questions(As they should) upon request, and could give me information if I needed it, with questions about the frame structure of certain types of tents(My initial contact for tent building was in attendance for the event, but I wasn't able to find her at the time), and I swear from the looks I was given, I could have been wearing hot pink garter belts and nothing else. It is one thing for people who are in a position of authority in an educational setting to not have the information, it is another entirely for them to flatly refuse to answer any questions someone might have. And from the reports given, these were the very same people who were more than willing to forcefully "educate" others about whether or not their garb fit in with the local period, or whether or not their tunics were made from the right fabric.
I have asked Laurels questions about clothing, about good fabrics to use that fit in with period appearance, and much more, and have often been met with a cold shoulder, and it always seems to me that the pageantry of winning the next year's award(And somehow seeing to it that others do not) is more important than education. It is as if they treat it like a business of sorts, treating every technique and scrap of information as a trade secret, and it brings me more than a short bit of disturbance to think that the society is Awarding this behavior. And still, here in the Society, we have a phrase that has ended up becoming somewhat famous in these parts, known as the "Laurel Check", wherein a laurel will approach you, lift the hem of your skirt or the cuff of your tunic, and inspect your stitches to make sure they are period accurate. This is not teaching, this is alienation(And battery, in most states.) And no, Laurels, this is not all about you, but when the An Tir Wiki page contains a publicly posted article by a Laurel that states that it is their sole purpose to look Down on others, you're asking for it.
Many will ask, how do we combat this particular activity? For starters, get the word out. If you see this behavior at events, intervene. Don't be the guy that silently walks by when you see such a social injustice taking place, and for the love of all things, don't be the guy that just lets it happen to you. If a person questions your seams, remind them that from the prescribed ten foot distance, they have no place commenting on the appearance of the edging on your clothing, nor on the fabric used, or really anything for that matter. Remind them that harsh criticism does not win friends, it only creates resentment, and most importantly, get their name, if only to let others know who to Avoid. This attitude of "No True Scotsman" in the Society has gone far enough, and it is one thing to have the ilk of social inequity being rubbed in the face of every member around, it is another entirely to feel that the behavior is supported by the blanket of inaction.