Another message to men – specifically geek guys – about sexual harassment.
That women are harassed online is not news. That women in comics and the broader fandom cultures are harassed online is not news. That these women are routinely transmitted anonymous messages describing graphic sexual violence perpetrated upon them for transgressions as grave as not liking a thing… that is actually news to me, and it’s probably news to a lot of you guys reading this.
But it’s not news to a lot of women I know, and to women whose work you’ve read here and around the Web.
Nope, it’s not.
The Internet is a boon to humanity. It is also terrible. That is its special nature. Every cogent thought put forth has a dark, mindless twin — sometimes these twins are legion — ready to feed on a person’s idea and process it into the toxic waste found at the bottom of virtually any website you care to visit. We call them trolls, and anyone reading this site or others like it knows that popular art and its surrounding fandom attract a particularly nasty strain of them.
I’m not just talking about the trolls. I’m not just talking about the mischief makers, the haters, the contrarians or the pedants. What I’m also talking about is something much worse and heretofore all but invisible to me and many other men like me. I’m talking about this:
Women in comics are the deviation, the invading body, the cancer. We are the cure, the norm, the natural order. All you are is a pair of halfway decent tits, a c*nt and a loud mouth. But see, it doesn’t matter how loud you get. It doesn’t matter how many of your lezbo tumblr and twitter fangirl friends agree with you and reinforce your views. You can be all “I’m not going to be silent about misogyny so f*ck you!” all you want. In the end all you are is a pathetic little girl trying to effect change and failing to make a dent. You might as well try to drain the ocean of fish. That’s the kind of battle you face with people like me. We won’t quit. We won’t stop attacking. We won’t give up. Ever.
I’ve encountered such sentiments before, but it’s only recently that I’ve learned how common they are.
Those remarks were sent to Janelle Asselin, a ComicsAlliance contributor, professional comic book editor, and academic researcher. She posted them on her Facebook page, to which she’s restricted public access for obvious reasons. I’ve republished the message here with her permission.
I’m sure what that guy says is true, but what I think is also true is that it will cost them all the best places. They won’t get to hang out with the cool kids.
At last month’s Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, Janelle joined former ComicsAlliance Editor-in-Chief Laura Hudson and occasional CA contributor Rachel Edidin on a discussion panel about sexual harassment in fandom culture and media. Laura and Rachel have also written about harassment before and since. It’s a subject I care about too, and I attended knowing I would hear some profound stuff about women in the industry in which I’ve spent a huge part of my adult life. But I went mainly because all three of these women are my friends and colleagues and I like to support their endeavors in all things. I didn’t think there would be anything for me, as a man, to take onboard from the sexual harassment panel. I don’t harass women. I hate men who do. What else was there for me to do but listen and try to empathize?
As it turns out… this. Writing this thing you’re reading now.
You see, each of these women — and they’ve been echoed by others including Kate Leth and Heidi MacDonald — explained something to the Seattle crowd that I thought I knew but never truly understood before:
This isn’t their problem, guys. It’s ours. We have to solve it.
Sexual harassment isn’t an occupational hazard. It’s not a glitch in the complex matrix of modern life. It’s not something that just “happens.” It’s something men do. It’s a choice men make. It’s a problem men enable. It’s sometimes a crime men commit. And it is not in the power nor the responsibility of women to wage war on this crime.
It’s on us.
How do we fight this war? We stop enabling. We check ourselves and, when necessary, wreck ourselves. Do you know a guy who’s hate-following women on Twitter just to troll them? You check him. Do you know a guy who’s writing disgusting screeds to women journalists because they don’t like the same things he likes? You check him. Do you know a professional whose discourse with women in his field is loaded with gender-specific language and condescension that could enable further abuse? You check him. Are your Twitter followers identifying you as a sympathetic ear for their sexist views? You check yourself. Is your website’s message board a cesspool of ignorance and hate? You check it like you actually give a damn. Do you know a guy who’s sending rape threats to women for any reason? Oh, you report that guy.
That. That’s what’s needed. A lot lot lot lot more of that.