There’s been this huge shitstorm on twitter (and subsequently on blogs, websites, and forums everywhere) over the last few days regarding a comment cartoonist Kate Beaton made about sexism. It was a mild comment, intended, I believe, in goodwill, to just educate people about being aware of some stuff that’s pretty offensive and not okay to say to cartoonists – of any gender really, but yes, specifically women, since that’s who 99% of these kind of things are said to. If you follow any comics professionals on twitter you probably got an eyeful…though it’s ridiculous trying to follow cohesive arguments on twitter…so you may have thrown up your hands in frustration and given up as I often do.
I’ve been thinking about this for days.
I thought about writing about it here, but after getting in a massive fight about it with my significant other, decided it was a third rail I just shouldn’t touch. But then today I read a comic by Gabby Schulz and I realized that it’s my responsibility as a woman that works in the comics world to stand up for what I believe – which is that Kate Beaton and the others that have stood with her publicly are 100% correct.
The bottomline is, regardless of the perfectness or accuracy of Beaton’s initial example, it’s just not okay to say sexual and intimate things that put people’s bodies on display to professional people, even if you think it’s a compliment because she’s HOTT. We (again, all comics professionals, but especially women comics professionals) work very hard to divorce our personal physicality from our work, because it’s not something that should have to go together. The same way no man should be expected to be SUPER sexy while he’s busy being brilliantly talented and bringing me awesome comics, it’s unfair to tie a woman’s hotness (or lack thereof) to her work, again, yes, even if you think you’re being nice and complimentary.
The two things don’t go together, and should in fact have nothing to do with one another, and linking them is a problem. Consider that what you find to be a compliment, is immediately and inexorably linking that woman’s work to her sexuality and level of attractiveness to YOU. What you think you’re making about her, you’re really making about YOU and how she applies to YOU. And in many cases, for many women, it feels threatening. Consider – at a minimum – women who are not straight and not interested in YOU and women who have been victims of sexual abuse (which at 1 in 6, makes the odds pretty high that you’ll eventually say this to a woman who has had a history of sexual violence perpetrated against her at one time or another). But even if you’re lucky enough to say it to a straight woman with no history or triggers that doesn’t seem to mind – it’s just not appropriate.
Ladies are tough, nine times out of ten, we laugh this kind of stuff off or ignore it because we are used to it, because we’ve trained ourselves to try not to care, because we’ve learned that it’s usually a bigger hassle to deal with it than to sweep our feelings under the rug (case in point, the exact shitstorm that is going on now). But that doesn’t make it right, and sweeping it under the rug means that nothing gets fucking better, and in many cases people don’t even know that what they’re doing is offensive and wrong, because they didn’t intend for it to harm anyone. But if we needed any proof that this stuff goes on in high numbers it’s evident in the vitriolic sexist response to Beaton’s simple bit of advice to fans, which was essentially – make it about the work, the same way you would for any creator, and not about whether you’d bang us or not with your awesome penis.
Let me lastly say that there are TONS of dudes that are supportive and progressive and that get what Beaton and others are talking about and have been and continue to be wildly supportive in breaking down these barriers and making things equal and civilized so that we can all just be treated like human beings. There are also tons of dudes that might have made the mistake of saying something like this to a creator, without ever realizing why it was wrong, but have now learned something (which was the intent I believe of Beaton’s tweet in the first place)…so this is not some JUDGMENT OF ALL DUDES. It’s not. Plenty of you are awesome and show it every day. But there are also plenty of asshats that need some education and unfortunately they’re a big vocal aggressive group, one that’s especially prevalent on the internet. And I’m not going to pretend there aren’t asshat chicks too. There’s plenty of them.
Anyway, I don’t have the time, energy, or emotional fortitude to go further – and I certainly can’t do it with as much charm and grace as Gabby Schulz, so I’ll just put myself out there publicly with Kate and her supporters and post a page of Gabby’s strip, and link to the rest of it. Check it out.