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…
There are times when I’m relieved that I’m so insulated from the comic community at large that I honestly don’t encounter these despicable people, and then there are times when I’m tempted to find and join every forum that exists just to prosecute an Eliot Ness-style crusade against the misogynists who spew their ugliness with self-congratulatory delusions that somehow they’re the ones under attack.
Shunning them is a solid suggestion, though I think it important to clarify that doesn’t mean just ignoring them. It means actively making it known that these thugs are not welcomed in our midst. It’s a solid approach, but for fans like me, who are already not engaged with fandom at large, it’s dissatisfying to feel that we’re actively part of the problem because we’re not more actively part of the solution.
I have my blog and social media (Facebook and Twitter). My readership is small. More often than not, I can’t even get my close friends to read what I write with any consistency, much less anyone else. I’ve followed a handful of various comic creators at times, only to lose my interest and un-follow most of them. I can say the only one I’ve ever un-followed because I was offended by something he said was Frank Miller, when he got all “Get off my lawn, you spoiled, un-American bums!” about the Occupy movement. The rest simply failed to interest me.
The lone exceptions are Gail Simone (Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, though I’m not very active with Tumblr), and Norm Breyfogle (Facebook only). The reason? Day in and day out, these two champion values I share. Discussion about comics is secondary to social consciousness with those two. Consequently, I’m just part of the choir in their church rather than an evangelical going door-to-door or standing in the streets.
I don’t even really engage much with anyone when I visit my local comic shop, The Great Escape, to pick up my monthlies. (I read Batgirl and The Movement, because both are written by Simone, the latter’s final issue will ship in just two weeks, and Batman ‘66). The manager at The Great Escape is a woman, and so are several of the staff, so I imagine anyone espousing misogynistic views is quickly shunned there.
I’m reluctant to even say it, but the God’s honest truth is, I’ve never witnessed anyone say such things there. That’s not a denouncement that it hasn’t, or doesn’t, happen. The ambiance in that shop is really quiet, even on Wednesdays. It feels like a library, actually. Even chatter at the counter is more about customers asking if they have something in stock or, more often, about customers bringing in things to sell or trade. Very seldom can I say I’ve ever heard anyone really even talk about the goings-on in any given comic or about creators, or anything else related to the industry at large.
I have no interest in joining comic book forums online. I don’t even read the editorial content on comic book sites unless it’s something brought to my attention by Breyfogle, Simone, or one of the very few comic book fan friends I have.
In fact, the only forum presence I maintain is on DVD Talk. I have occasionally encountered misogyny there, but to the community’s credit, I’ve usually seen it called out by the time I’ve caught up and found it. If I happen to be reading when something like that is said, I’ve not hesitated to be the one to call it out. But I only maintain my presence on that forum because it’s so civil overall (with the noted exception of the “Other” sub-forum that includes political content; even the rest of the forum considers that a whole ‘nother world where only those willing to endure slings and arrows venture).
We have a comic sub-forum there, though it’s tiny. I haven’t been very active on the forum at all since the end of February, so I can’t say what anyone has said in the last two months, but I would be surprised if misogynists had asserted themselves there.
I want to be clear: I have not said all this in an attempt to shirk accountability or to rationalize passivity. If anything, I would invite my fellow comic fans to follow Norm Breyfogle and Gail Simone, to visit The Great Escape, and/or to join DVD Talk. I would stand by all of them as being safe for women. (Though I would think recommending Gail Simone is probably unnecessary.)
Should I take the fight to misogynists (and racists and homophobes, as well)? Should I actively seek them out and hunt them down, joining forums for the purpose of calling out their ugliness? I feel derelict as an ally not doing more than I do, because I’ve stayed away from the battlefield. Rushing to the front lines feels like making the fight about me, though, and I know that’s not what being an ally is supposed to be about.
For the third year in a row, I will be attending C2E2 in Chicago next weekend. Aside from seeing the typical objectifying works in Artist Alley, I witnessed nothing at either of the previous shows. I did encounter some ugly remarks about a cosplayer in a photo I shared in a Facebook group, though. I lashed out enough that that guy has more or less abandoned the group. I’m sure he’d say he got tired of me being such a stick in the mud that he lost interest in the group; we’d clashed over other issues before that incident. Whatever.
I’ll keep my eyes and ears open next weekend. I intend to attend a few panels about women in comics - as creators, characters, and fans. If anyone reading this happens to want to chat with me, I welcome you to approach me. I’ll be the dude with the battered brown cane. I shouldn’t be hard to find, because there’s a 10% chance I’ll be in your way at some point. (Sorry about that!)
Edit to Add
I shamefully forgot to mention that I also follow Ty Templeton and his wife, Kieran Smith. They’re both lovely people who also call out -isms wherever they encounter it.