Man-Eaters writer Chelsea Cain has deleted her Twitter account following a controversy regarding Cain's usage of tweets critical of her work on the Image Comics title within the pages of last week's Man-Eaters #9.
The series, which is about a world where a mutation causes menstruating women to transform into vicious cat creatures and the government harshly responds to fears over those transformations, has dealt with criticism from the start over the way Cain's writing handles gender within the world. Critics have claimed that Cain presents the world of Man-Eaters as one split between only cis men and cis women. The issue, critics state, is that such an alleged binary approach excludes trans and non-binary men and women. For instance, in a world where menstruation leads to a monstrous transformation, what about men who were assigned female at birth? Pointing to the fact that many of them still menstruate, critics took issue that Man-Eaters did not appear to take these people into account.
Kat Overland, from Women Write About Comics, asked Cain about the trans concern at the start of the series:
And can you tell me if/how the book will tackle what this kind of hormone therapy means for characters who aren’t cis?
I think it’s really important to tell stories from a lot of different points of view. This is a story about what it’s like to be a cis gendered female coming of age in a culture that consistently reinforces the messaging that periods are shameful, that our bodies are shameful, and that womanhood—and the biology that goes along with it—is something gross and not for polite company. It’s about rejecting that narrative and making something powerful from it. You don’t have to have a uterus to be a woman. Anyone who thinks that hasn’t been paying attention. But let’s not get lost or distracted here—this is a specific story, about a specific experience—the way that all good stories are. And if I’m doing my job well, I think that anyone can relate to it. I think that someone who is trans knows full well what it feels like to struggle with being defined by biology and by the social messaging that makes us all, at one point or another, feel like monsters.
Still, critics and readers continued to take issue with Man-Eaters, with a number of people equating Cain's treatment of trans men and women within the series to that of TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminist), who exclude trans women from feminist spaces.
It was not until Man-Eaters #6 that the first reference to non cis men or women was included in the comic.
Cain, who has taken issue with the criticism and in the latest issue of Man-Eaters (by Cain and artists Elsie McCall, Lia Miternique and Rachelle Rosenberg, and letterer Joe Carmagna), expressed her concerns by re-posting two critical tweets of her work as propaganda posters at a reeducation camp in the series.
Cain's usage of the tweets drew a large outcry from fans and critics on social media. Though she did not ask for permission to use the tweets, she printed them without sharing the names of the Twitter users who sent them. Cain explained that she had not realized that people could find the original tweets by searching the text, and further defended the usage by explaining, "I just wanted to acknowledge the really painful criticisms of the work and that sense I have that no matter how hard we try we are made to feel worthless and small. It was meant to echo a voice. The one that tells me I am a failure. Or as I call it, Twitter."
As the criticism continued to roll in, Cain repeatedly apologized and then made an offer to bring on a trans sensitivity reader for the last three issues of Man-Eaters. However, that offer was also met with criticism since she was not able to pay said sensitivity reader, having offered free comics in exchange for the work. Cain apologized again and noted that she didn't know that sensitivity readers were employed by comics publishers.
Ultimately, Cain made the decision to delete her Twitter account, something she had done previously in 2016 following online harassment over her Marvel comic book series, Mockingbird, and the famous "Ask Me About My Feminist Agenda" cover used for its final issue.
Her final tweet read, "MAN-EATERS has meant a lot to a small group of people, and we will finish the last three issues for them. I'm sorry I'm not who you want me to be, and I'm sorry that ME can't be inclusive of every experience."