For the Union Makes Us Strong
by Travis Hedge Coke
I brought up Cyclops of the X-Men using a racial epithet, the other night on social media. I brought up Kitty Pryde using racist and sexuality-based insults. The responses were along the lines of, Yes, but not since 1969; Yes, but Kitty only said the n-word four or five times in forty years.
I have never seen an X-Man chastise or correct another X-Man for saying something racist.
I have been re-reading early Lois Lane solo stories with my best friend. Even knowing what to expect, we are aghast. The desperate condescension from Superman, and to varying lesser degrees, the sexism of all men in these stories is shocking. Not surprising; shocking.
If you jump over to classic comics groups or conversations online, much as in comics shops for those of you who still brave them, the response to Lois, or any other woman, being struck by men in an old comic, is to insist she earned it or to ask you rhetorically, if you’ve ever wanted to see them be hit, and offer you an example from some issue.
A routine and regular response to the recent Warren Ellis accusations, is that these were consenting women in consenting relationships, ignoring that a major part of all the accusations is that he was consistently lying.
Julie Schwartz died sixteen years ago and it is still too soon for many in comics to address head-on his abuses.
The same fans and professionals who celebrate the human effigy of Jim Shooter ceremonially destroyed at a party held after he left the Editor in Chief position at Marvel Comics, feel it is unbecoming to discuss physical, sexual, emotional, or financial abuse by people in comics whose work, or whose persona they enjoy.
This is our culture. This is our community. This is the professional field. It is the fandom. Is the professional fandom of local comics shops, conventions, swapmeets, and clubs.
We place professionals and fans into organizations and camps they never joined, based on a stylistic tic, era of entry in the comics, or simply that we dislike them. Erik Larsen or Jim Balent are never going to join a racist or misogynist hate group.
Months ago, I offended an artist/writer/publisher I generally respect, and the artist who took up for me, a frequent collaborator with the person whom I offended, did go and join a hate group right after.
It is impossible to visit a well occupied comics group on Facebook for an entire day and not see misogyny. Visit the X-Men or Batman niches of Twitter, you may see one minority pit their entire stake against another, any given day. It’s bizarre how far we have let things go. How far we will let them go.
I’m not use the superhero examples because the non-superhero American comics aficionados are a better bunch. I am not using superheroes because the manga crowd are totally more woke, and totally more chill.
I wouldn’t go in most English language manga groups if you paid me a per diem.
The Maus/The Comics Journal crowd are frequently a disaster. The Comics Journal’s coverage of the Warren Ellis scandal was humiliatingly embarrassing, sexist, backwards, poorly researched, aggrandizing Ellis and other abusive men.
They’re all bad scenes.
And they’re all largely one scene. Essentially the same players putting on different hats, maybe different name tags. We are all in this.
For every occasion I feel that I call out too much, there is a horrific glut I let slide. You can’t call out every eagerness to see women hit, every snide jab at Carol Danvers, paranoid homophobic moment, every bout of rage because something is being done with a black character somewhere. You burn out, you block people, you stop going to certain stores, certain conventions.
It has become traditional to ask that you, did I do not try to do better, only that we do better. Doesn’t work. Often, it only results and doing better where the bar is set at that moment, and never trying again.
We don’t need to do better, we need to keep trying do better. We need to clear the bar, raise that bar, clear that bar again. And, again. And, again.
For the Union Makes Us Strong
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