I am a big believer in “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I don’t always follow my own rule; but in general, I’d rather gush about things I love than rant about things I do not like. I try very hard to keep the negativity to a minimum and be constructive about my criticisms. There’s a lot of unfounded anger out there in the interwebz. I don’t like it, and I don’t want to contribute to it.
The past couple of years I’ve done a year-end Best of Women and Comics list over at iFanboy. I think to celebrate when things are done well–accentuate the positive, if you will. This year, I didn’t do the list.
Now, I could just let it go by unnoticed. I could say it was because of insane personal and editorial schedules. But the hard truth is there sadly wasn’t a whole lot to celebrate this year. I’m not just talking about the gender-centric disputes and sexism, but an ugly kind of hatred that’s managed to spread into the wider community. And I think we need to address that instead of just brushing it under the rug for the sake of politeness.
I keep coming back to this quote I found about a year ago: “I blog about sexism in geek culture not because it’s my passion, but because it gets in the way of my passions.” I don’t want to talk about fake geek girls or comic creators attacking cosplayers over the internet. I don’t want to keep a tally of how many women are working at publishers or the number of comics with positive female leads. And I really, really don’t want to see threats of violence between fans themselves or fans and creators, regardless of gender. I just want to read and enjoy my comics, dammit!
Look, I’m all for not letting names hurt me. But you get pelted with enough sticks and stones, even when you’re trying to mind your own business, and you’re bound to end up with a broken bone. There comes a point where ignoring the antagonists does not work, and you have to stand up and say STOP. You have to “engage the crazy” and acknowledge that it is hurtful and damaging.
I feel like a lot of this year was doing just that in the comics community. Victims of this rampant sexism have started to speak out on why what’s going on in the comics community (and other fandoms) is wrong. And I don’t use the word “victim” lightly. I know women who have been threatened with physical violence and sexual assault for expressing their opinions. I, personally, have been told that I’m “a cliche” and that identifying as a geek girl will “only get me into trouble” (which is pretty classic victim shaming).
Like I said, this isn’t just a he said-she said thing. Threats of violence and death were lobbed at creators from fans on what felt like a freakishly consistent basis. Maybe it’s because I’ve become more entrenched in the comics community that I’m noticing this kind of thing more, but it seemed like 2012 was a banner year for threats on the internet. And maybe the majority of these threats are made in a joking manner. It’s impossible to get a feel for intent or context when you’ve only got 140 characters to look it. A joking “I could kill you for XYZ” is indistinguishable from a serious and malicious “I will find you.” There are social boundaries that need to be upheld. If you wouldn’t say something to a complete stranger on the street then you should not say it online. Hell, if you wouldn’t say it or want it said to your mother, don’t freaking say it someone on Twitter with an @-tag.
This kind of behavior is real, and it is wrong. Ignoring, downplaying, or refusing to shed a light on sexism is as detrimental as condoning it. We need to speak out against it. It’s not a fun conversation. It’s ugly and brutal, and I DO NOT LIKE IT. But until this kind of thing stops, we have to keep talking about. We have to discuss it, because if we don’t it won’t change.
There’s so much good in the comics community. So much enthusiasm and friendship and creativity. I love comics because of the community it fosters. I have so many wonderful friends because of comics. That’s why it tears me to pieces to see this kind of stuff happening–this virtual brutality between people I like and respect.
So can we promise in 2013 that we’ll be a bit nicer to each other? That we’ll watch our figurative tongues when we’re shooting things off on twitter? That we’ll strive to be inclusive and welcoming and not at all what other people expect us comic nerds to be?
Let’s make the interwebz a happier place.