On -isms: Cone of Silence

By | Thursday, December 14, 2017 Leave a Comment
The point of my "On -isms" feature here is to point out the racism, sexism, able-ism, etc. that happens in comics. Mostly in the hopes that, once some of this crap is pointed out, people can recognize it and change things for the better.

I don't know how much impact I've actually had here, but I know I've had at least a few people contact me and say that something I wrote here changed how they saw and reacted to some comics. So there's something. But the problem I often run into is that much of what I write about here is in the abstract. I'll provide made-up examples, maybe exaggerated to a farcical degree to hammer a point home, and that leaves room for people to say, "Yeah, that's all well and good in theory, but that doesn't actually happen."

Without concrete, real-world examples, backed with evidence, people are quick to dismiss things like this. I mean, look at the story with Roy Moore in Alabama... there are three women who came out citing sexual assault. Willing to put their names out in the public against the Republican candidate for state senator -- one of them even producing physical evidence of at least severely inappropriate behavior -- and how many people dismissed their claims as lies? Six other women claimed sexual harassment -- many dismissed them as liars too. Nine people. First-hand accounts with names, dates, places... Overlooked by a significant portion of the electorate. So with that level of dismissal when you have real-world examples provided by the actual people involved, how readily do you suppose people would believe in a hypothetical?

The challenge, then, is to bring to the table as many real-world examples as you can. With as much evidence as you can. The reason why that's a challenge is because most people don't want to call those people out by name.

I know women who've been sexually assaulted in the comics industry. Women I've known for a decade or more. I know more lurid and graphic details than I really want to. But what I don't know are the names. They won't tell me who actually did what. So all of it, despite those nasty details I kind of wish I didn't know, remains theoretical. "Some guy" who slid his hand down her back and into her underwear isn't anything anyone can act on; but if you say "Bob Smith" slid his hand down her back and into her underwear, now we can talk to HR and maybe do something.

But many people are willing/able to do that. To name names.

I get it. If you call out "Bob Smith" and he gets fired, that's probably going to make his friends upset. And if his friends hold more power than you in the industry, they can sabotage your work or even your career. And whether they make that threat explicit or not, the threat is still there. So it's easier and safer for your job if you don't call out Bob. Which means he got away with it. And will probably get away with it again. Maybe with someone else. Because he was shown that those actions don't have consequences.

But that's why I generally don't have a bigger impact on this stuff. I can't name names, because I don't have any. So my examples have to be in the abstract. Making it easy for people to dismiss them since "that never happens like that!"
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