Hello. I’m going to reprint a bunch of my old comic book-related posts written for a variety of my old websites. This one, “Why am I starting this blog?” was written for one of my then-new Tumblrs in 2014. Enjoy!
Almost a month ago, I privately spoke to several journalists in the comic book media who were researching the topic of sexism and harassment in the comics industry. They indicated that while many people were willing to talk about incidents off-the-record, almost everyone was too afraid to say anything publicly for fear of reprisals and industry blacklisting.
The hope is that the comic book industry has an efficient and empathetic protocol in place to deal with such topics as sexual harassment and assault, racism, homophobia, and transphobia—as well as issues such as wage disputes, benefits, non-payment, stolen IP, and so on. I can understand the need to keep everything “quiet” and low-key—if there is truly a system to assist and protect victims.
Is there such a system?
This blog will archive the relevant posts I have written elsewhere over the course of almost ten years, as well as host some new material. Some insights and opinions might fall into what would be considered traditionally “feminist,” and others are more “grey area” topics that may or may not be your cup of coffee. There will also just be commentary and links to wider social issues outside the comics industry.
I’m not writing this blog with the expectation that anything will truly change within it as a result of what I post. I am looking, instead, for small victories—on a person-by-person basis.
“Why did they go to his hotel room?”
When I was an editor for DC Comics I had one of these “comic book legends” who was doing a story for us take an interest in my writing, and have it escalate to him saying he was interested in me physically & inviting me to his hotel room. I turned down the meeting; he was married, I had no interest in him, and frankly how fast it all turned from “I think you’re a great writer” to “I’d like to fuck you” was very disheartening. I didn’t tell the gossip mill what happened, and I had no interest in humiliating this guy—I told my boss, because this was a person working for us and so it became a work issue.
My boss had a talk with this “comic book legend” and defended me. My boss told him: do not make my employees feel uncomfortable, that is unacceptable. Then “comic book legend” immediately called DC President Paul Levitz to have me fired from my job. No exaggeration: literally, he called the President of my company to have me fired. He referenced some small edit in his story (like, punctuation or changing a verb), and how it was part of a “conspiracy” by me personally to humiliate him. “You must fire this impudent woman at once.”
Now: I didn’t get fired. And I was believed and defended by my boss. But this anecdote illustrates a couple of things that I think is germane to this conversation about Bill Cosby:
1. People accuse some of the women claiming they were raped by Cosby as being “too ambitious.” They ask: “why did they go to his hotel room? why did they go to this and that function with him? they were just looking for a career advancement.” Well, the #1 advice I always used to get, as an aspiring young comic writer, was to network. Male and females both get this advice: “network.” The problem is, as a female, your willingness to make these connections can lead to these situations…you don’t want to be the person turning down every chance to talk to important people because you are afraid of getting hit on or whatever. You don’t want to appear cold or unfriendly. So if you are an aspiring TV comedy writer, for instance, you don’t want to alienate Bill Cosby.
2. Now, what happens when you play so-called “good girl” and don’t go to the hotel room? Do you get a cookie or an extra sticker on your work evaluation? No: you can have butthurt guys try to get you fired in retaliation. And you are a 25-year-old Nobody and they are Blah Blah Blah LEGEND!!!!! You’re not “worth” more than them. That’s how you feel. You’re literally not “worth” as much as these people. You are expendable.
3. Do you have any idea what it’s like to have this motherfucker feign an interest in your work, and then suddenly flip that to: meet me at my hotel room? And then you try to do the “right thing,” and discretely report it to your boss, and not go to the hotel room…and then be informed that this guy called the president of your company to have your ass fired for NOTHING (other than his ego was butthurt)?
This was in 2001 or thereabouts. Now let’s go back to the late 60s/early 70s, back to the time many of the Cosby accusers cite as when they were assaulted by him. How much more fucked up was it for them? How much more palpable the feeling that if they “alienated” the big celebrity, their career would be damaged?
This is why when people say: “why did they go to the hotel room???” I just shake my head. You’re fucked either way.
Extreme cyberbullying helped me, in a strange way, push past all my limits in terms of self-expression. Because all those things I held back from writing about, out of a fear that people would think I was “weird” or make fun of me? I was already completely and utterly humiliated in my community—regarding puerile squabbles over comic books and “geek culture.” Then why hold back on anything else?
I remember just sitting and thinking one day: “why am I holding back on anything else?” I’ve already gone through “worst case scenario.”
“Spend the rest of your life writing about what you want.”
Where is the comic industry’s Hannibal Buress?
So here is a story: a female comics freelancer respectfully asks a male comics freelancer she is working with to stop doing something inappropriate. She then finds out she is taken off the project by the publisher with no explanation.
This is a common story, with many variations, within the comic book industry. But then there is the bluster by certain people within the industry/media that “well, unless we’re going to name names publicly, it’s all just a frustrating thing to talk about!”
While these people—if they are any way insiders at all—know FULL WELL how women’s careers are destroyed once they speak out. These people have the answer to their own question. They benefit from an overall system that punishes the female who speaks out in the industry—and then have the temerity to put the responsibility for speaking out on these topics solely on the victim.
Where is the Hannibal Buress of the comic book industry? Because last time I checked, I don’t have a penis.
2021 Update: As of this writing, I *still* don’t have a penis.
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