Martha Thomases: Criticizing Criticism
This isn’t what I wanted to write about. I would much prefer to tell you about some hidden gem in the world of comics. Instead, once again, we’re going to slog through the mud.
A while ago, a writer, Janelle Asselin, wrote a critique of a Teen Titans cover for Comic Book Resources. The cover is an incoherent piece of art, and she described her problems with it. Her comments included art criticism (mostly centering on the lack of anatomical reality of the depiction of Wonder Girl, a teenager), sociopolitical criticism and observations on marketing. She suggested that sexualizing characters who are supposed to be minors was more than a little bit creepy. She pointed out is that Teen Titans is a book that has a great deal of potential to reach outside of the typical comics market because it was a popular cartoon series, one with a lot of female fans, and, from a marketing perspective, there was a lot of money to be made by doing a comic that might draw in some of that audience.
So, of course, all hell broke loose.
I didn’t read all 40 windows of comments. Life is too short. After I read a few screens, I got the drift. For one thing, many people don’t understand the difference between marketing and editorial. More to the point, guys don’t like it when you notice they’re being creepy. Especially when they’ve been bragging about the creepiness up until this point.
Example? Here’s a comment from someone code-named Rakzo: “It seems like we can’t enjoy sexy superheroes anymore.” Did you see what he did there? He said that because Asselin criticized the (unnatural and/or surgically enhanced) depiction of a teenage girl, somehow this became an authoritarian edict that was actively prohibiting him from doing something.
Now, there are a lot of things that people do sexually that aren’t my thing. If they announce this in a public forum, I will, if asked, admit to the occasional icks. Obviously, this varies with the fetish. Shoes? Not my thing, but have fun. Scat? Not my thing, please don’t tell me about it and clean up after yourself. Your list may be different from mine. That’s what makes being humans interesting.
Being sexually aroused by under-age girls? Please stop talking before I wonder if you’re a registered sex offender.
A few other commentators called Ravko on this, and replied, “Maybe, but that’s not my point, it seems like the comic community has become a place where being a prude is considered ‘cool’.” Because there is no one more oppressed than the poor pedophile.
While this was happening on CBR, there was a parallel nightmare on Twitter. In her Tumblr. Asselin describes how she was ridiculed and hassled. Her professionalism was called into question. So was her safety. She not only was dismissed as a “disgruntled former employee,” but she was also threatened with rape.
Yeah, that’s right. The proper response, when someone has a different opinion about a work of comic book cover art is to threaten that person with physical violence.
My pal Heidi MacDonald wrote a wonderful piece on her blog, in which she wonders why more men don’t speak out against this kind of hate speech. She’s not asking for censorship, just peer pressure. When a man demeans a woman in our profession simply because she is a woman, other men should call him out. That’s not radical. That’s good manners.
On a related note, I’m going to Awesome Con this weekend, an event I’ve never attended before. (Stop by and say hello!) In keeping with my obsession, I’ve noted that, of the 52 guests announced in the comics and literary field, only eight are women. This is a better percentage than lots of other shows, but still woefully non-representative of the number of women actually working in our industry.
And when I went to see what kind of programming they had, including the number of panels that included women as experts, I was struck by this one: “Part Time Writer, Full Time World. The panelists are all women (Lindsay Smith, Jean Marie Ward, and Janine K. Spendlove). The subject: “How do you balance a full time job, parenting, writing, and *perish the thought* actually having some hobbies or perhaps even a social life? Everyone handles it differently; come to find out tips and advice as to how.”
Gee, I wonder why there are no men on that panel. Obviously, they’ve got the full-time job/parenting/writing/hobby balance worked out. It would be really swell if they’d enlighten us ignorant women about how they do it.
Jeff Edsell said:
Do you mean you interpreted Martha’s comment that way, or the basic existence/subject of the panel?
Because it certainly sounds to me as if that was part of the thinking behind it.
Also, of course, because “everybody knows” men are more likely to be full-time writers…
I was interpreting the panel that way: “Why bother teaching men how to balance parenting with work when everyone knows women are the ones who do the parenting?”
As I said, I’m a little oversensitive on the subject — I’m still surprised at how many people (of both genders) still refer to it as “babysitting” when I take care of my own kids, and refer to men who participate in parenting as “Mr. Mom”. Admittedly, it’s improved in recent years, but as the panel topic proves, old stereotypes die hard.
Great column, Martha!!!!!
As far as the full-time job/parenting/writing/hobby balance thing, it’s not a question of whether or not men don’t do any parenting. I think a lot of men are extremely involved in their kids’ lives these days…
I think what Martha is pointing out is the assumption by the con runners, or those who set up this particular panel, that it’s only women who are dealing with this conundrum. Or maybe they just wanted to do a “Women in Comics” panel and thought this would be an interesting twist on the subject.
Either way, it does seem somewhat sexist–against both sexes for a change!
The answer is, btw–and I feel that I am qualified to answer this conundrum because I was a single parent, and now I’m watching my daughter juggle work, school, and parenthood–, to quote Nike:
Just do it!
And seek plenty of help from family, friends, and, if necessary, babysitters!
And then look back when the kids are all grown up and wonder just how the hell you did!