Someone asked me to make this question from a reader, and my response, rebloggable, so here it is, I hope!
ninjaruski asked: Hi Gail, this week, at Dragon*Con, the Comics and Popular Arts Conference put on several panels where academics (mostly philosophers) discussed feminism in comics and popular arts. The last day, the Conference held a roundtable with three academics (myself one of them) where we discussed the status of women in mainstream comics where they could ask us anything. One of the women in the audience asked us what she could do about misogyny in comics, and we were stuck. How would you have responded?
Okay, first, this is a problem no one person can solve. But it’s also a problem no one person should ignore.
No matter where you are on the gender spectrum, gender contempt is a problem that does no one any good at all.
When I started writing about comics, it was a different world. The publishers not only didn’t know if women read their comics, they didn’t CARE if women read their comics. And every female voice had been subject to an endless parade of crap for standing up and being heard at all. It was not just tolerated, it was encouraged.
I know people think it’s still like that now, I can assure you, it was much, MUCH worse back then. And I’m not talking twenty years ago (I wasn’t in comics then), I’m talking even ten years ago.
Every time I spoke up, there was a line of guys (and some women) who wanted to shut me up and knock me down. Endlessly, just for saying, “Hey, shouldn’t we LOOK at this?”
When I created the Women in Refrigerators page, a page which never mentions misogyny, there was just a THRONG of people who chose to condemn it, and me, without even reading it.
At first it was hurtful. But one day, it hit me. I hate bullies, I hate being bullied, and if I didn’t stand up to it, I’d just be saying that what they were doing was okay, that they were right, and that it was fine to shout someone down.
You wouldn’t believe the names I was called. One creep publisher (who has mostly given up now) went WAY out of his way to try to humiliate female creators and commentators, all with a giggling gaggle of sycophants, some of whom are still around in the industry, cheering him on. It was non-stop, every day there was more of it aimed at me, just for asking the question on the WiR page.
It stopped being hurtful and started being hilarious at some point. And it DID make a difference. I started hearing back from publishers and creators and editors that they hadn’t really known their was a real female audience. And more importantly, I think it helped female readers stand up a little bit, as it became a lightning rod. Other females had spoken up before me for decades (bless you, Trina Robbins! Bless you, Lea Hernandez! Bless you, Colleen Doran!).
But there was something very powerful in asking this question very simply and without histrionics. It made a difference, and it still has an impact today.
I have seen a lot of activism happen since that time. Not all of it has met its stated goals, but it does get heard. And the volume of the voices for change is growing.
We’re not going to win every time. That’s important to know. We’re not going to win every time. No one does.
But we can show that we have voices and platforms and purchasing power.
When I get bummed about change I think is coming very slowly, I think about Kyrax2, the famous ‘Batgirl of San Diego.’
Now, if you’ve met her, you know she’s a wee thing. She’s tiny.
And she stood up in the big hall at San Diego, SURROUNDED by a hostile, booing audience, at the microphone, and asked a few questions herself, of the most powerful editors and creators in comics.
Not once, but every panel she went to.
While all around her, people were booing her, she asked why there weren’t more female creators, why female characters were being retconned, etc. Simple stuff, and she wasn’t the least bit rude or unkind. And it FREAKED PEOPLE OUT.
The hilarious thing to me was, people were asking about things like, Barry or Wally, as if that was the most important thing in the world, and then yelling at this Batgirl cosplayer for talking about gender, as if that was the LEAST important thing in the world.
And here’s the thing. Kyrax won. DC had to respond on the net and in print. I know it has been discussed a lot. Changes were made.
Because the people who make up DC are not bad people, and they knew she had a point. They didn’t handle it right at the time, but they knew she’d had a point.
So, one tiny woman, in a huge sea of people who did NOT want to hear her message, moved the rudder almost single-handedly.
I think the thing to do is, to be a little bit like Kyrax. Have some courage, speak out, refuse to be cowed or shouted down.
That’s if you’re a reader.
If you’re a creator or an editor or a retailer, same thing, take your principles with you, stand up, make your voice heard.
It’s not a matter of one blast of dynamite destroying a boulder that’s in the way of progress, it’s a series of people with chisels who chip it away until there’s nothing left and the road is open.
We can do that.
The same can be said for misogyny in the improv community.