The Darker Side of Fandom

Anyone who's a regular here knows that my favorite comics blogger is actually a stuffed bull in Brooklyn named Bully. Witty, generous, and erudite, he reminds us, per his blog name, that "Comics Oughta Be Fun!," and offers us a model for such fun with his own writing. His "alter ego," John DiBello, has a good piece up at the excellent Kevin Church's blog (Church co-creates the fantastic webcomic The Rack three times a week with Benjamin Birdie), about the not-fun side of comics culture: the sexual harrassment that's too often inflicted on folks in large gatherings like the San Diego Comic-Con. Please check it out-- DiBello's thoughts are worth reading, and one hopes that SDCC will take him up on his call to police this shit a little more (or, well, at all, actually: according to DiBello's essay, the Con currently has no policy in place about what to do if such events occur).


pc said…
That's a good post and sadly true. It's been a reeeealll long time since I was at a comic con, but I've had a lot of game/animation students over the years and the misogyny and simple sexism displayed is really disturbing. It's not, ha ha, funny, risque teasing; it's undermine anything the women say, do, and ignore their discomfort at all costs.

I've even had a discussion with an animation professor about it and what the college should do and his response was that the girls just need to get used to it because it's the way it is.

I like Bully's point though that way to help is by giving the harassees a clear forum for reporting. My solution is to do something physically violent to the second-life living harassers, but Bully's is probably more socially constructive.
Brian Doan said…
Yeah, Bully/John is a wonderful blogger, and I really admire him for calling that crap out. I'm grateful that the comics culture in Oberlin-- at least from what I've seen in classes and at our local shop-- doesn't seem to traffic in sexist behavior (or if it does, I haven't witnessed it), but I know from other past experiences that this kind of behavior is all-too-prevalent. I'm sorry to hear you've encountered it in your own classes. Just out of curiosity, what kinds of material did you cover in the animation classes you taught? (I've been teaching one the last couple of semesters, and I'd be curious to hear what material you're using).
Bob Westal said…
Obviously, this kind of thing is not anything new -- there has been at least one fairly high profile case of alleged sexual harassment that I know of in recent years (no doubt there are others), and I've heard private remarks about boorish behavior regarding even the less fanboyish/"alternative" ranks of the comics world.

I'm sure part of the problem is that comics fandom is still evolving from the once almost exclusively male domain. I can't verify this right now, but I recently heard that the first San Diego Comicon had exactly one female attendee. In those days, women like Trina Robbins, Ramona Fradon, and Marie Severin were very much the exception. Just like ethnic bigotry tends to run high when a once all-_____ enclave finds itself with new residents from _________, so I imagine some guys (they're aren't men) might feel threatened by a female "invasion."

The other factor is rank speculation on my part, but it might be the simple territorial imperative considering the overcrowding over the last few years. I wouldn't be surprised if all sorts of aggression was higher this year. Crowding tends to bring out the worst in us.

I'm far from plugged-in to today's comic scene beyond causal observations, but it's clear that women in comics -- if not geekdom as a whole -- are not only increasing in numbers, but vocal and organized through organizations like Friends of Lulu. I'm not sure how much difference it'll make, but I'm sure it's likely that something like what DiBello is asking for may well come to pass.
Brian Doan said…
Bob, I'm sure that's true, but (and this isn't a slam at you, since you're just mentioning it, not enabling it) that "territorial imperative" stuff has to end-- it's just so offensive and immature (and as folks have been pointing out on comics blogs since John posted his piece, in addition to the harrassment it causes women subjected to it, it also reinforces all kinds of negative stereotypes about comics/fantasy fandom and its arrested adolescent qualities). Seriously, you read some of the stories John and others mention, and it's just so "WTF", you know? I will say I'm heartened to see this being picked up as a meme on a lot of blogs, though, and even though there's always the drooling contingent making dumb remarks, a lot of the conversation's been pretty smart and progressive. Although I'm horrified by the stories John tells, I hope those responses bode well for the future.

Also, thanks for mentioning Marie Severin, one of my all-time favorite Marvel artists. I always loved the way she could move from MAD magazine-style cartoonish satire to really evocative adventure/superhero melodrama with such ease.

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