Martha Thomases: That San Diego Con
It’s that time of year again. All the cool kids are getting ready to go to the San Diego Comic-Con. And by “cool kids,” I mean people who are younger, stronger and more patient than me.
Every year, I kvetch about Comic-Con. And every year, I kind of want to go. I mean, not go to the Comic-Con that will actually take place. I want to go to the Comic-Con of 1993, when I was an important part of a major publishing company and everyone kissed my ass and I could get a table at the restaurant of my choice at the time of my choosing.
I would also like a unicorn, but that’s another column.
Anyway, this year, what I mostly regret is the opportunity to meet my future husband, Chris Hardwick, who is podcasting his program from San Diego all week. Not only would I enjoy meeting him, but I’d like to see the look on his face when he realizes we are fated to be. Either delight or horror, it would still be a treat.
Which, in a roundabout way, brings us back to a subject that has concerned this column all year: The changes women make to pop culture, and the way pop culture is adapting to women.
You may recall my previous columns on the subject (here, for example), that women at comic conventions have a problem with sexual harassment. By which I mean, men and boys harassing them. It’s a big enough story that even non-comics news sites cover it.
Many people want SDCC to prominently post its policy on sexual harassment on signage around the convention, so that offenders cannot claim they didn’t know they were doing something wrong. Others would like to make the policy more specific. Here’s what it currently says, according to the website:
“Attendees must respect common sense rules for public behavior, personal interaction, common courtesy, and respect for private property. Harassing or offensive behavior will not be tolerated. Comic-Con reserves the right to revoke, without refund, the membership and badge of any attendee not in compliance with this policy. Persons finding themselves in a situation where they feel their safety is at risk or who become aware of an attendee not in compliance with this policy should immediately locate a member of security, or a staff member, so that the matter can be handled in an expeditious manner.“
For more about the various arguments, here, in a nutshell is the debate.
Now, I love David Glanzer with all my heart and soul, and there is no doubt in my mind that he is completely devoted to making Comic-Con a fun and educational event for all who attend. I understand that he wants to make everyone who comes to the show comfortable, and this includes families with young children, who might be spooked if they see signs warning about sexual harassment. He might also think it puts ideas in the heads of kids who want to show how great they are at this rebel stuff.
Still, I respectfully disagree. I think it’s entirely appropriate to say that, because of incidents at other shows, SDCC wants to assure everyone that they are committed to a safe and friendly show. And I’d make a big deal about meeting with law enforcement before the show starts, so that if crimes are committed on-site, there is a system in place to get rid of the criminals who assault women and others. For all I know, they do this already. Still, I’d make sure everybody knew.
And, as I’ve said before, I’d have more women as special guests and expert panelists. It’s not easy to stop people in comics from seeing women (real and fictional) as simply sex objects. One step to fix that would be to feature them as talented professionals.
Which brings me to the next huge show on the horizon, New York Comic-Con. It’s still a long way off in convention time, but they’ve started to announce guests, which gives us a hint as to what the programming will be. So far, they have announced a dozen guests in the comics category, and two of them are women. That’s better than last year, when only ten percent of the guests were women, but not by much. I should note that there is also one literary guest announced, and that is Kim Harrison, who is female.
Not enough, but a step in the right direction.
So, if you’re going to San Diego, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair. Wait, wrong city. Be sure to have a great time. Bring me back stories.