She Has No Head! - Zen Is Still Nowhere Near The Building

So, I thought about writing about a few different things this week, maybe a focus on some great books or something, but the state of our industry and sister industry of gaming just has me too damn wound up and frustrated to focus on anything else.

For those playing catch up, gaming has been thrown into absolute chaos as it continues to deal with the growing pains of facing some really long gestating problems with sexism and misogyny in the industry. It’s a problem we here in comics know well. Many of us are “gamers” (or players perhaps is a better word) and even for those of us that don’t play games, there’s still a bond between comics and games – as “geek hobbies” we’re sister industries for good or ill. I guess it makes sense that both our industries are pushing on these boundaries and trying desperately to grow past these limitations at the same time and with some of the same disturbing results, but man has it exposed some truly nasty people and agendas.

The last month has seen a lot of controversy surrounding game designer Zoe Quinn’s personal life, it’s honestly so complicated that I can’t easily summarize it here, but suffice to say that the end result of harassment, doxxing, hacking, rape threats, and death threats are unacceptable even if you’re someone that believes EVERY SINGLE NEGATIVE WORD you’ve read about Quinn. The treatment she has received is absolutely insane and grotesque and included the same crap Janelle Asselin received last spring for critiquing a simple comic book cover and inspired this very site to finally overhaul their forums/commenting and install stricter regulations and moderators. The controversy surrounding Quinn was followed up last week by all of the same behavior - harassment, doxxing, hacking, rape threats, death threats, etc. toward Anita Sarkeesian for her latest Tropes vs. Women In Video Games piece. In case of the latter death threat – Sarkessian was actually forced from her home and had to notify the police. Absolutely unacceptable on every fucking level.

Naturally, I thought about writing a huge post about it, except three things:

#1 this problem is so rampant I ALREADY had to write about this issue this year (a post I have re-posted in its entirety below).

#2. I'm not interested at this point in debating the finer points of anyone's arguments, right or wrong. I'm only interested in stopping the harassment, threats, (and more than threats) toward people who disagree with someone else.

#3. Wil Wheaton already summed up the entire issue nicely in under 140 characters on twitter:

Really, what more needs to be said than that? Not much. Because no matter how much you might disagree with Sarkeesian - or Quinn or Asselin, or me, or any other woman on the internet (or in real life) – none of these women are threatening to rape and kill you. These women are not en masse hacking your data and putting it online, trying to ruin lives and wipe out bank accounts. That’s it. That’s the end of the discussion. This is unacceptable behavior UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES and it MUST STOP.

How thick is the irony that talking openly about harassment results in increased harassment? How clear is it that sexism and harassment exists as a problem when the knee jerk response to talking about issues of harassment and sexism is to harass and threaten women? It puts a really fine point on the issues…over and over and over again.

One good thing has come out of all this – and Quinn, Asselin, and Sarkeesian are tough ladies, so I hope they agree (though I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t – it’s no fun to be a sacrificial lamb/martyr for a cause – even an important one) – these nightmares have pushed a lot of important, influential, respected people (and even a few relevant companies) to take very vocal stands against these sexist and misogynistic behaviors and attitudes. It does finally start to have the smell of real change when we see this kind of decisive pushback by those that don’t HAVE to stand up and say something. Many have long been allies (and many are even progressives leading the cause) but it never hurts to have it reaffirmed publicly: Badass Digest, ARS Technica, Games.On.Net, Dan Golding, Vice, Motherboard, Gamasutra, New Statesman, Kotaku, Tim SchaferJoss Whedon, Cory Doctorow, Wil Wheaton, Bob Chipman, Neil Druckmann, Anthony Burch, Sean T. Collins, Mitch Dyer and so many more have taken a stand, and if you haven't, you should too.

In all of this - which can be exhausting and upsetting to read, let alone LIVE - it's important to come back around to this - said best by Sarkeesian herself, quoting the conquering hero and eminently quotable Buffy The Vampire Slayer:

The following is SHE HAS NO HEAD! - ZEN HAS OFFICIALLY LEFT THE BUILDING reposted in its entirety here and originally posted on April 28th, 2014:

Last week I opted to talk about the awesomeness that was the new Lumberjanes comic

instead of the disgusting madness surrounding a well-reasoned critical piece written by former DC Editor Janelle Asselin about a comic book cover. Frequent commenter Dean Hacker called me Zen. We all had a good chuckle.

Apparently you cats DO. NOT. WANT. ME. TO. BE. ZEN.

Because the world and it’s worst denizens have made it impossible to be Zen with the continued onslaught of sexist bullshit.  Absolutely deplorable behavior in the wake of Asselin’s article – and when I say deplorable behavior – I mean things that run the gamut from the appalling posting of a woman’s picture in forums so that she can be further objectified to the alarming yet highly common and terrifying rape threats, to people trying to hack into bank accounts, which…good god man!  And all of this because a woman didn’t like a comic book cover you liked. We also had last week, amidst this storm,  a sexist t-shirt telling women to get their ladybits out of men’s comics.

Here’s a peek:

(sidebar: I wrote this piece last Tuesday as I’m out of town, but yes, I saw the follow up on this shirt from the t-shirt company. It’s still a “shit shirt” [patent pending on that term?] and while I don’t like the shirt with the genders reversed either, the truth is that one [hating men] is basically an aberration in comics and thus relatively harmless, if annoying, while the hating women shirt pictured [and highly profiled on the site] is indicative of a deep sexist problem in our community, a community that has a lot of problems with sexism and women feeling safe and welcomed…so let’s have some context there and not act like we don’t know the world we live in, okay? This “OMG! Double Standards!” makes you look SUPER EXTRA DOUCHE-Y, guys. That said, I am not calling for t-shirt makers to be strung up or shirts banned, [nor have I seen anyone else do so] they have the right to print whatever stupid shirt they want, the same way that others have the right to respond to said “shit shirt” in the form of op-eds – why people continue to miss this part of the whole “it’s a free country” thing is beyond me.)

ANYWAY, the good news is there’s already an awesome “answer” T-shirt by comics colorist Jordie Bellaire and Steven Finch, so once it’s officially released, demand your stores (and such) stock that puppy, and vote with your dollars…and your chests?

Anyway, it was seeing this fantastic shirt, and reading excellent pieces by Greg Rucka and Jill Pantozzi in the aftermath of this newest sexist bullshit that made me feel like I had to jump into the pool. Both pieces are wonderful, and if you haven’t already read them, make a point of it.

My heart swells especially at Rucka’s piece, since he’s not actually a journalist (as Pantozzi is) and is not a woman. We need more and more of our allies – which I believe are the vast majority of the comics creating and comics reading community to begin taking public stands. I can’t do better than Andy Khouri’s exceptional and passionate piece on Comics Alliance that includes a plea to men to begin standing up to this inappropriate behavior in every walk of life. Greg Rucka can’t just man the dude side of the public ship all by himself, guys.

But it’s not just men that need to speak up and stand out, make their affiliations know, it’s women too. It’s all of us that need to come together to stamp out bad sexist antiquated behavior unworthy of us all and our industry. It holds all of us back. I’m a huge fan of Andrew Garfield. I think he’s a fantastic actor and though I don’t know him personally, he seems like a hell of a guy, but good on Emma Stone, for calling him out recently when he made some likely innocent but wrongheaded comments on gender.

I don’t believe Garfield is sexist, I think he probably just hasn’t spent a ton of time in his life worrying about gender roles. He probably also hasn’t been challenged on these issues. Some may think that it would have been better for Stone to be polite and not challenge and potentially embarrass him in public, to pull him aside after and ask him what he meant and explain what is wrong about it, but he is SPIDER-MAN talking to a huge audience of CHILDREN. An audience of young boys and girls who IDOLIZE him, not just as a superstar but as a superHERO. If Spider-man thinks that sewing is “feminine” and “for girls” then a lot of kids are going to as well. It’s problematic for him to – accidentally or otherwise – indoctrinate them as to what is acceptable when it comes to feminine and masculine types/behaviors/activities/etc.

Again, a harmless mistake on his part, but one Stone was dead right to call him out on, and I suspect that Garfield is man enough to agree to that after the fact. Understanding what he was saying to all those kids, and what effect it might have had if left unchallenged, I think he would (and maybe he will publicly if asked about it?) agree that he simply misspoke and she was right to call him out, to address the mistake immediately so that even if it wasn’t completely corrected, the kids could see that his OPINION was not FACT.

None of us are perfect. We’re all absolutely fallible. We come to the table with our own prejudices and blind spots and in many cases what we come to the table with is made worse by our experiences and environments, both those we choose to put ourselves in and those we do not. We all have privilege. The educated person, the civilized person, the BEST person, is not afraid to admit to those blind spots, confront those privileges and learn from them to become even better.

That all sounds rather positive, and encouraging, doesn’t it?

Yeah, but I’m not that Zen today, I wish I was, but today is not that day. So today I’d like to end with a direct response to this absolute nonsense left for Janelle Asselin in her survey (and first published by Khouri with her permission in his piece):

“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.”

Here’s my very public response to that – published under my own name and not cloaked in the cowardice of Internet anonymity and not intended for anyone except people that share the cowardly and disgusting views on display in the above:

Sir, it’s YOU in comics that is the deviation, the invading body, the cancer. You look around and you see more that look like you — likely straight, white, and male – but you cannot see inside them. You assume they are like you inside, but they’re not and one by one they are slowly joining our cause in part because you have made the alternative option so disgusting that they can no longer sit idly by. Many of them didn’t really want to get involved (hell, I hear that, neither did I), but when faced with the disgusting alternative – that the loud minority will proclaim this battle already over and count the silent majority among its grotesque numbers – they’re being forced to speak up.

Our cause – one of simple equality – is joined daily by comics creators and readers everywhere. The aberration is the creator that says, “No, I have no interest in equality. That’s not for me.”

You see, the cancer is inside YOU. You are broken and wrong. You are filled with hate and sadness, and the core messages of our superheroes are long ago lost on your cold dead heart that seeks only to destroy that which you don’t bother to understand.

If women were the only ones standing up and demanding equality – if those of us with tits, cunts, and loud mouths (nothing wrong with those things, son, though you try to use them as insults) were the only ones standing up, you might be right – we might eventually be defeated. But we cannot be defeated because we are not alone. We have an army of good people of all genders, races, religions, and sexual orientations standing with us – including many of the likely straight white males that you mistakenly think are on your side. You are very very loud, but we are LEGION.

It doesn’t matter if you never stop attacking, if you never give up. We will simply DROWN YOU THE FUCK OUT. We will drown you out until all that you have is your tiny dark little hole in which you can try to pretend you matter. We will drown you out with the work we create, the community we build, the diversity we encourage, the variety we celebrate, and the simple fact that the only constant in life is change.

Fight it all you like, it won’t matter. The world was once full of dinosaurs like you that refused to accept the simple facts of change. But nobody is very afraid of dinosaurs any more.

So bring it, yo. We’re not worried. We’re just getting started.

Kelly Thompson is a freelance writer living in Manhattan. She is the author of the superhero novel THE GIRL WHO WOULD BE KING recently optioned to become a film, and her new novel STORYKILLER is out now. You can find Kelly all over the place, but twitter may be the easiest: @79semifinalist




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