Sorry To Burst Your Masturbatory Comic Bubble (No, I'm Not)
I have a theory on why a small segment of men who read comics send rape threats to women who write about comics. To put it simply, they think we’re destroying their masturbatory fantasies (literal or otherwise).
You may laugh but it’s quite possibly the source of all the hatemongering. They’re under the impression comics are for men. Men only. And the characters therein, specifically the female characters, are there for them to ogle. The mere thought of that being taken away from them is frightening (even though, you know, porn and porn comics!). So frightening they will do anything to stop it. And they think silencing women with threats is the answer.
Can’t blame them for that thinking completely. After all, comics have been marketed at men 18-34 for a long time. But, and this is always what gets me, if you want your precious comic books to exist in 20 years, you need other demographics to read them.
The first time I was called a “cunt” online (Oh, boy! I must have missed the day in my college journalism courses where they went over that part of the job!), was when I wrote an op/ed titled, “Aquaman Needs a New Costume" for Newsarama back in 2010 (at least this is the first time I remember). I had written for Comic Book Resources previously but before then, had only written convention coverage or interviews. Here I was, writing my previously Heartless Doll-hosted comic book column "Hey, That’s My Cape!, a woman, giving an opinion on a comic book character’s costume (a male character at that), and I was harassed for it.
It was incomprehensible to me at the time, having only really been on the receiving end of the warm and fuzzy part of the comics community before then, that someone would have such vitriol over a comic book. Of course, it wouldn’t be the last time I gave my opinion online and therefore, was just the first in a long line of misogynist hate directed toward me (I have a “shithead” folder in my email as well as one on my desktop filled with screenshots of the offenders).
We could call them assholes. They are. But so is the driver who decides they need to get in front of me in rush hour traffic. These people are worse and they shouldn’t be excused with a wave of the hand.
When these issues are brought up, there are always responses to the effect of, “I haven’t seen it so it doesn’t exist.” My guess is, they have seen it. They either ignore it, or it’s such a part of the way they were brought up it doesn’t even register. But for a larger portion of people seeing others bring up issues of misogyny in the comics community, it’s a no-brainer. “This is bad.” “This needs to stop.”
What Janelle experienced (some more details in her own words here), was not new. Let me repeat. Was. Not. New. It’s happened for years, to countless individuals. Not just in comics, obviously, but every industry.
I’m happy to see folks like Dan Slott, Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, and more - probably big names to the disgusting offenders - publicly decrying the behavior as abhorrent and unacceptable. Fellow journalist (and dude) Andy Khouri just added to the growing pile with a piece on Comics Alliance, “Fake Geek Guys: A Message About Sexual Harassment.”
But a part of me is also sad. Why? One, because this has been going on for far too long (This is just the latest outcry. Remember when Mark Millar got involved after hearing about a notoriously vile troll who went after myself, dcwomenkickingass and others? That’s just one of many.) and because these men’s voices seem to carry louder in the community than the women who’ve been experiencing it first hand and speaking out about it for years. And two, because I’m not sure it will have any effect whatsoever on the offenders. That minuscule segment of the community is set in its ways. Comics are for them. Don’t let anyone else in. This set of Double D’s are for me. Period.
It’s also important to remember there are numerous women without someone famous speaking on their behalf. I know women who have quit doing what they love because of the threats they’ve received and how scared they’d been made to live as a result. It’s unacceptable. So what do we do?
Rachel Edidin had some good thoughts in her recent Tumblr post but bottom line? Shun them. Seriously. Shun them. Do not accept them in our community. You may say, “I’ve never seen someone make a rape threat online,” but can you say the same about a rape joke, or a man telling a women she’s being “too emotional” or “she needs to get laid?” My guess is no. And guess what? That’s where it starts. Making someones’ gender an attack point.
You see it. You know you do. Next time, say something.
I’m working on a new journalism project that involves stories of sexual harassment in the comics industry. Primarily I want to hear stories about comics professionals (creators, editors, executives, marketers, journalists, retailers, convention organizers, etc. etc. but not fans)…
Have you taken gimpnelly's comic book industry harassment survey yet? Did you know she's gotten harassed because of it? Do you think they even get the irony?
Besides Batman, what character or universe would you write a story for if given the opportunity? Also, what are your thoughts on the 'Invincible' sexual assault arc?
I like that you knew Batman would come first. :)
I’d love to write in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe. Dark Horse’s comics have kept the spirit of the series going and the voices are all there. Not sure if I’m up to the task but I’d love to try!
On Invincible, let me say I don’t read the comic. I also don’t like rape as a plot device. But I did read Robert Kirkman’s interview on it on CBR today and he definitely didn’t do it lightly and had some other really great things to say on the matter.
Last night I watched Disney’s latest animated feature, Frozen, for the first time. I didn’t love it. Do you hate me now?
Believe it or not, I was able to avoid all spoilers about Frozen. A Herculean feat, let me tell you. Not only did our readers have a lot to say in the comments of our review, we posted a new Frozen video or fan art several times a week. Why? Because people are gaga over the animated film. Frozen was everywhere, it was the best Disney film in years, etc., etc., etc. That’s why I was supremely confused, and more than a little bit scared, after I watched it and wasn’t blown away. Was there something wrong with me?
“Talking about fans of Lara is an interesting thing, because she’s a whole new woman now, you know? She was an icon that was really useful for women to own in the nineties and later, even though she was very heavily geared toward a male audience at the time. But the audience evolves, the business evolves, and she’s a new person now. Fans of the game are invested in her heroics, they appreciate that she’s not hypersexualized, that she’s more sophisticated and human. And maybe you lose some of the dudes who didn’t want that, but I believe Square Enix made that choice to make a better character. You know, also with Buffy, things evolve. The version of feminism that’s presented through a fantasy character is different now than it was in 1998, when we first started doing the comics. There’ve been a couple things in the comics that I’ve had to steer the writers and artists away from, to which they’ve very legitimately responded, “But wasn’t that in the show?” And it was, but things change. This is the Buffy of 2014 (or whatever year it is in the comic itself, shhhh), and this is the Lara of 2014, and I’m proud of that. I like presenting these images of heroines, as opposed to some of the other ones in our industry.”—
Love also emailed Fan Expo and said the reply she received was “inadequate” and felt like a complete brush off. Pirko had a more worrying response:
They stated that their attendees and their team were adults, and it was all a bit of fun that people wouldn’t take seriously. A direct quote from the email ’We thought about clarifying that cuddles must come with consent, but we thought if we’re always putting the rules in front of the fun – well that hurts the spirit of Fan Expo as much as the people that try to abuse our rules.” They also stated that they hadn’t gotten around to putting their harassment policy up yet, but had made it a priority.
Reminding people not to harass other attendees only makes the convention less “fun” for those who were inclined to harass in the first place. For everyone else, it reassures them they can have real fun in a safe environment with fellow fans.
Speaking at TCA, this is what Fox’s Kevin Reillyhad to say when asked about casting Anna Gunn in their upcoming Broadchurch remake, Gracepoint.
Why did you cast Anna Gunn, instead of also going with the original British actress?
REILLY: You need a salt-of-the-earth quality in that role, and I think Anna really does have that. She’s a tall, elegant woman. That was her character, to a certain extent, on Breaking Bad. She is quite striking, but I think in a really approachable way, she’ll be costumed accordingly.