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April 18, 2014

A Bit Of A Link-Up Catch-Up On Sexual Harassment Issues

The general comics culture conversation about sexual harassment issues has continued with a number of articles worth noting. The issue came to the forefront this week after the writer and editor Janelle Asselin's April 11 article criticizing a comic book cover drove a series of unplesant, severe reactions ranging from patronizing replies from fellow professionals to anonymous rape threats. As linked to a few times here earlier this week, the reaction Asselin received and her forthright confrontation of those responses led to a strong show of support and general pushback against those elements. It also led to some essay writing, most notably this post from Asselin, around which all commentary has since orbited.

Some of the newer and/or new-to-me pieces I've stumbled across:

* Asselin's follow-up post here should be read and considered if you're following this story in any way. Asselin also questions the course of the argument over the past week, and what was perhaps required for it to register with some folks, which I think is an important thing to track.

* Andy Khouri wrote a very well-received article here calling on men to police, question and raise objections to other men both making threats against female industry members and participating in an atmosphere that facilitates that kind of abominable behavior. Brett White wrote a similar article here. Several creators like Dylan Horrocks here took to social media to affirm such articles or to generally comment on the ideas presented in a "we have to stop right now" fashion. Here's a line-in-sand type post from Anne Scherbing concerning the rape threat element and the culture that allows such things.

* Lea Hernandez wrote a post here about the general cost of dealing with ten thousand gallons of dolloped bullshit of varying flavors and intensity just to function as a working professional. I think it's important to note that continuity, although there are no hard and fast rules in how we contextualize or choose not to when it comes to issues like these.

* Jill Pantozzi posits a theory here about what drives some of the contemptuous to demented responses to criticism of sexist or non-inclusive elements in comics art: that it will get the in the way of these books remaining masturbatory fodder for a subset of fans that count on that function. That's mean and funny and communicates. For me, however, that argument's primary value is to suggest a construction where the intensity of the reaction is a fear response: fear of being severed from that thing, fear chased by resentment that this denial of pleasure is deeply unfair.

I'm sure I missed some great ones.

I would also recommend that you take part in the sexual harassment essay mentioned. That's here.

I'm still processing and learning on these issues. I don't have a lot to add at this juncture. I'd be happier at this point running your commentary, I also hope I can re-publish on CR a blog post I liked from early this week, depending on whether I can come to an agreement with its author. If not, I'll run a link Monday and discuss it a bit. I don't want this issue to go away. I don't want it to be talked about until it no longers registers as important.

It's an overall positive and certainly the very least we can do not to countenance rape threats in any way, or any threats of violence. Further, that we have an obligation to refuse to tolerate such behavior or any of the flourishes of culture that might make that behavior less aberrant and abominable -- even if that's just in the hearts of minds of desperately messed-up people -- seems sound to me. That men may have a greater opportunity to combat certain aspects of this because of their exposure to less of it as a target and more of it as an enabler or nearby witness, that seems to me an idea worth exploiting to positive effect.

I hope for two additional things.

I hope there's a self-critical aspect to this. Correcting bad behavior and affecting cultural change requires asking hard questions of yourself. That may mean sussing out how you participate. That may mean figuring how you need to see things differently. That may mean coming to terms with what has taken you so long to make this a priority. I hope everyone that is writing about these issues in terms of broad principles will write a piece six months from now about applying those ideas in their day to day dealings. I hope to join you. We can't keep revisiting these things; we can't just keep making vows to do better; that's like constantly starting over with a new #1. Comics has made progress in recent months, I think. The expectation of safe-space policies at conventions seems a greater, more universal priority now. We also seem more comfortable taking these issues on when they flare up. We can do more.

I also hope that we'll be ambitious in terms of engaging and correcting any and all behavior that puts someone at a disadvantage based on factors like gender or race. When harassment issues roared up the Team Comics driveway as something to discuss last Fall, I argued a connection between a general lack of professional standards and the facilitation of a lot of rotten behavior. I still think that's true. I hope that maybe for a while we'll all reconsider being patronizing to a fellow community member. I hope we can curb lascivious or inappropriately intimate commentary in a professional setting. I hope we can get past assuming bad faith when someone is trying to do the right thing or at least a better thing. There's likely something we can all do to make things better, even if you never hear a rape joke or never find yourself standing over someone's shoulder as they type out a rape threat. I am very terrible at a lot of these things, and could stand to get a lot better, too. Let's get to work.
posted 2:05 am PST | Permalink

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