So last week a (male) friend posted up a link to an article by The Beat’s Heidi MacDonald on some incidents of sexual harassment at NYC Comic-Con, with the line “What the actual fuck?” The incidents reported included a crew from “local TV cable show Man Banter” asking highly inappropriate questions and saying things like “Well in my experience, girls who stand next to me longer than 20 seconds get a cream pie” to female cosplayers. Man Banter is apparently devoted to all things manly – because of course saying things like that on camera is manly. By the way they currently appear to be in hiding – also manly. And then there was the 16 or 17-year-old who was grabbed and kissed without permission, leaving her visibly shaken. And the fact that one of the main rooms was sponsored by Arizona Beverage Co, who, charmingly, are running a ‘big cans’ promo fronted, oh so imaginatively, by a woman with, you guessed it, ‘big cans’.
I chose not to write this straight away because, frankly, I needed to calm down or this blog post would have gone something like: WTF? Are you actually fucking serious? Who the fuck thinks this is in any way appropriate behavior? Fuck you, you fucking advertising creeps who think that kind of campaign is witty, you bunch of hipster retro douches. Mad Men you are most certainly not, and at least that show is set in the 50s and 60s and the creators are kind of making a point about how that behavior is not acceptable. This is 2013 dickheads and we’ve moved on from that kind of objectification (or bloody well should have).
But while that’s a completely appropriate response to a very fucked up situation, it’s not a particularly constructive one (thanks Mum). So instead I have spent the weekend dealing with my anger and aggression so that I can provide a measured response, because there’s no room for simple invective on this one.
Point the first: There is never an excuse for sexual harassment. Let me repeat that – There. Is. Never. An. Excuse. For. Sexual. Harassment. Female cosplayers wearing tight costumes and corsets are, again: Not. An. Excuse. For. Sexual. Harassment.
What was most disturbing to me about this is the fact that NYCCC’s organisers appeared to do very little to sort the problem out when it happened. OK, so the creeps in question had got press passes on falsified information, but here’s the thing – when someone describes the group to security and gives them the name of the company on the camera equipment, particularly when you discover they aren’t on your press list, you send security out to look for them. And, yes, I am aware of how big NYCCC is. So for next time here’s a hint: You know the band …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead? Well, you shall find them by the trail of women who are seriously annoyed and making complaints.
Point the second: Comic book heroines do tend to be well endowed, but that’s no excuse for a sponsor who translates that to cans of frosty beverages (and we’ll get to the first part of that in a later post).
As MacDonald mentioned the audience at Comic-Con is roughly 40% women, that’s at least 40% of people there who would find the ‘big cans’ campaign offensive. You may never have managed to get a girl into the sack, and consequently spent your life dreaming up the ultimate fembot, but here’s another tip: That’s not how you do get a girl to go out with you.
Happily up on the Empire Room Stage, where the ‘big cans’ cavorting was taking place, several of the male panelists were visibly unimpressed. Bravo, and please write to the organisers expressing just how much you hated that bit, because you’re men, and maybe they’ll get it if other men tell them to pull their heads in.
But what has this to do with an image problem you say?
Well simple, this is not the first time nor, unfortunately, do I think it will be the last time that someone writes a blog post like this about the treatment of women within the comic scene. And the fact that I could generalize so easily tells me that this is not unusual thinking about men who read comics.
So this week, I’ve decided to tackle the comic book industry and scene specifically from a feminist perspective and examine how you comic loving men out there are actually the solution to this problem. Let’s call it Women and PR 101.