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Home > Letters to CR

Luke P. On Sexual Harassment And Industry Standards
posted November 22, 2013
 

Like I mentioned on Twitter, talk of harassment, or otherwise unacceptable behavior that takes place in and around comics, while useful for its own sake, often leads to a general appeal to "comics" to "do something", or otherwise speaks in terms that suggest this is possible.

The problem I have with this approach is that there's really no central body that could even begin to talk about applying general standards of conduct to "Comics". While employers & publishers can ( and probably often do) make codes of conduct known to workers, it's another thing altogether to expect that someone could do anything about behaviors of fans ( the loathsome "up-skirt" photo comes to mind) & when it comes to Cons, cartoonists/writers are usually representing themselves ( You book your own table, put your name on it, etc.).

The reply to this is often that even if that's true, the nature of the problem is "institutional" , or it's a kind of invisible virus that's taken hold of the "culture".I'm not going to argue those points here, but let's say those things are true.Then what?

I guess an organization could be created that devised a set of standards and could stamp it's approval -- like Kosher foodstuffs -- on an individual creator , convention, or publisher, and all who receive the mark ( $19.99, paypal accepted) would agree that they will not participate in a comics-related even ( or even personal interaction?) with non-mark holder. How likely is something like that to occur? I'm not trying to be flippant here, I promise. I cannot think of another way these appeals could be dealt with effectively by "Comics".

So the question isn't so much who, out there, in a position of authority, can do something, but what can be done by individuals who identify with comics culture. I don't have a clear answer, but suspect the level of identification with Comics, suggested by the term "Nerd Culture" or "Comics Culture" ( both are of a pretty recent vintage, no?) might contribute to the blurring of lines between our private lives and our interest in Comics, whether pro or fan. & like you suggest, the sharing of personal information via social media might be an issue (I mean, how many cartoonist's Tumblrs ( of both sexes) feel like they could be titled "Stuff I masturbate to"?). I think it contributes to the notion that "Comics" is a "Place" where these sorts of ego-farts in the elevator are acceptable, maybe even cool , like hey, I'm just "being real".
I don't know if this is at all helpful. Feel free to publish or not.

Tom Spurgeon: Thanks for writing. I agree with your last point that identification levels with comics and the creation of an idea of various sub-culture based on that identification or something that has helped blur the lines. You also have the basic destruction of many of the traditional industry aspects of comics, generational differences more generally and the rise of comics shows as an economic force, among maybe a dozen other things.

As for the rest of it, I don't think there needs to be a centralized organization for improvements to be made in this area, and I frankly don't even know how you got there. I think company and institution/event policies along with a general attention to this area from professionals to involved fans can do a lot to improve things. As far as the people taking up-skirt photos, for example, I think if there's seriousness here people will be encouraged to report it, those people can be bounced from the show, they can be brought to the attention of their company if they have one and they can be arrested. It seems to me that Brian Wood is going to suffer personal and professional repercussions for events that took place six and eleven years ago without there being even the weight of an official censure from either institution where elements of this are alleged to have taken place; your imaginary misbehaving comics pro would seem to have quite the road to negotiate if he heads down that path.

But no, it's not perfect.