Oh lord, I am so tired of this and you probably are too, but here goes.
§ LJ user Beccatoria has a summary of Our Story So far.
§ At Comics Alliance, Kate Leth has a great cartoon about this.
§ As you probably know, another woman came out with accusations against Brian Wood yesterday, former DC employee Anne Scherbina. The most unsettling element of this story seems to be that it was passed along to the then Lying in the Gutters, and a whisper campaign seemed to be unleashed. I worked alongside Anne, although she had a different last name then; I’m a little sad to say my memories of her are murky; my murky memories are that she was a very nice young woman who didn’t deserve this.
§ Jeremy Shane at the Outhouse has a very good post called Hate the Player, Hate the Game: Sexual Harassment in the Comic Industry that very usefully, i think, takes this from the frame of reference of the specific to the larger larger issues that we all need to be aware of.
That’s not to say any one person’s actions should be overlooked – they absolutely should not – but for our part, fandom’s part, of this conversation to be more productive, we should remember the bigger issue here: the hostile environment created around anyone who speaks out, the attempts to discredit and dismiss them, and the pressure to just stay quiet. Speaking out about these events, no matter how small, no matter how long ago, can only serve to show people that this is a real problem that needs addressing. The culture of silence needs to end, and what we can do to make that happen is to support the rights of women to express themselves on this matter.
And you know that’s why I’m writing this post. This whole subject now makes my skin crawl but the silence needs to end. A collective confessional seems to have taken hold as more stories are coming out.
§ Rantz Hoseley has a couple of stories that aren’t what you expect, In one, what seemed to be some consensual group, sexy times freaked him out entirely. Which is his right. CONSENSUAL. You don’t have to go along with it if you don’t like it. In another, Dave Sim, of all people, delivers a very balanced critique of a young woman’s art. I don’t think we should give him a medal for doing what’s, uh, the right thing to do but…well you never know where it’s going to come from.
§ Finally, my friend Mariah Huehner came out with her own stories of sexual harassment and this is where I lost my shit because I worked with Mariah and she is just about the nicest, smartest person in the world who deserves to be treated with nothing but respect and what happened to her is disgusting. A freelancer writes to her with lewd comments? FUCK THAT SHIT. How could you treat a co-worker-technically your employer—like that? Convention groping? Disgusting. I know it took Mariah a lot of courage to write that post but the ending is so powerful.
We’re told not to “make” men feel bad about what other men do. That relaying our stories is generalizing and condemning and unfair. We’re told it’s our responsibility to “get over it”. To internalize every single thing we are subjected to as “just the way it is” and, ultimately, our fault for existing as women in spaces. For existing in the world. For trying to make our way in that world and be treated as human beings. We are told: don’t feel this way. Don’t think these things. Don’t express normal human emotions, like anger and resentment, about upsetting experiences. Stop talking about things we don’t want to hear about. Stop telling us we are complicit through our inaction. Stop expressing yourself in ways we don’t like. Stop making us uncomfortable about the things that go on around us that we don’t see/ignore. Don’t trust yourself. Don’t exist in ways we don’t like. Don’t exist in “our” spaces. Don’t try to live your life like it matters. Like it’s important. Like you have the right to be here.
Women don’t exist for you to approve of or to make you feel better about the shitty way the world works. We don’t exist for you at all. We exist for ourselves. And we’re going to keep demanding for our rightful place in the world whether you like it or not.
Mariah’s stories—and sadly I know they are not the only ones of their kind—are just revolting. They could happen in many settings, but is this what we as an industry want to be the environment?
I was going to tell a few stories of my own here, but I’m too mad and sad to write them up. I will say that at least on one occasion, the men—the REAL men, I should say—of the con physically kicked out the offender. I’ve seen that happen several times, and it is the good part of the usually wonderful comics community that I’ve spent my adult life in. BarCon is a fun and essential part of the comics world, and obviously, the normal human pursuits of having a relaxing drink, talking shop and engaging in harmless flirting—or perhaps more serious flirting—with your colleagues in the industry is part of what makes life a rich tapestry of experience and companionship. I met my own husband outside a hotel bar at a con, and a lot of actual relationships have started in this setting. AND a lot of one-night stands that both people had fun with. CONSENSUAL ACTIVITIES. That doesn’t mean turning into a sloppy drunk, groping, leering, unwanted sexual talk, upskirts, calling your friends over to laugh, not taking no for an answer, belittling someone when you get shot down, stalking, or any of that other crap that WE ALL KNOW IS WRONG.
All I have to say is…decent men, be decent. Don’t let the sex pests out there ruin everything.
And women, if you are upset, talk about it. Find friends. There are plenty of great women in the business now, and many decent men. Rachel Edidin, who has been the tireless Agent Cooper in all of this, has a post called Comics, Conventions, and Harassment: A Personal Promise in which she promises to help harassment victims at a con. A lot more people should make that promise. It takes a village, and the village doesn’t need sex pests.
AND NOW…back to the comics.
PS: I’m keeping comments open on this but, in the words of Walter White, TREAD LIGHTLY.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.