Martha Thomases: The Solution
Once again I’m going to talk about the sexism in the comic book industry. Yeah, I’m kind of sick of it, too. However, this week, in a wave of optimism, I’m going to suggest a solution!
The subject is in the news once again because DC Entertainment finally issued a statement about the continuing charges that members of its editorial staff engage in sexual harassment.
As far as I know, there are no new charges this week. Instead, the pressure of fan reaction online and in the press must have finally reached the attention of someone at Warner Bros. corporate HQ, and the issue could no longer be ignored. It’s obvious that DC would like this to be ignored, and as evidence, I offer the fact that they released their statement on Friday afternoon, a time well known to publicists as a dumping ground because journalists, like everyone else, like to get a head start on their weekend.
I’m starting to feel bad for Eddie Berganza. He screwed up — badly — several years ago, and he accepted a demotion and did all the other things that the HR department demanded. He’s not the only person in comics to behave badly, but he got caught and he has paid at least a part of the price. Everything else that has happened since, up to including the alleged edict to ban women from working in the Superman office, is a mistake committed by management.
If Eddie really can’t control himself enough to work with women, he needs professional help. If there is a provable pattern of discrimination against women in the Superman department, that is a criminal offense whose blame goes to the people who enforce it. Unless publishing has changed monumentally in this century, editors — not even Senior Editors or Executive Editors — cannot ask a company to break the law on their behalf.
The solution is not to ban women from the Superman office (or the Spider-Man office or the Hellboy office, etc.) but to hire more women. Fill the place with women. Make acceptable and respectful behavior towards women something that happens all the time, every day.
I realize this is a radical concept, and it may be a lot to expect DC Entertainment to change when all of Hollywood behaves differently. Except that Hollywood, or at least a tiny part of it, is changing.
, the people who made the new movie, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, which opens today, were afraid they would be unintentionally sexist in their depiction of a modern-day sorority. To avoid this, they hired two women to consult about the script and the female characters.
Before the poor, oppressed straight cis men out there start hyperventilating about “censorship” or “political correctness,” thats not what’s happening here. The women are both writers and professional comedians. They were there to make sure the characters were real and funny, not bimbo stereotypes or delicate virgins.
I’m not suggesting that DC bring in consultants to vet every script or every page of art. Movies are a different medium, with one script (which may be rewritten constantly) and one production schedule. DC publishes more than 50 titles a month. Movie productions tend to each be a specific project, often with its own corporation or partnership, while comics are a continuing process from one legal entity.
Still, I think diversity consultants could be useful. In fact, I think there is an opportunity for just such a business. It would include people of color and people from other continents and people of diverse ages and sexualities and gender identities.
I think this company’s holiday parties would be so much fun.
If this works, it might be more efficient for DC to hire an actual Chief Diversity Officer. Yeah, it sounds like more bureaucracy, but companies are always adding new C-level executives. When I worked at DC, there was no such thing as a Chief Creative Officer. Now, DC and Marvel both have them.
Creativity and diversity go together. The sooner comics (and movies and music and television and theater and dance and publishing) realize this, the sooner we can talk about something other than Eddie Berganza. And won’t that be nice?
DC is waaaaay behind the ball on their “diversity” statement, Martha. As an R.N., every year for the last AT LEAST 15 years I have to take a class on Diversity, Workplace Violence (which includes sexual and gender harassement), and plain old Sexual Harrassment. This happens at every single hospital and ambulatory center in the United States. All new employees must take these classes, and as I said, the classes are mandatory every years. And it is not restricted to health care workers with direct contact with patients. EVERYONE must take these classes, from the M.D.’s on staff down to the “Environmental Services,” i.e., janitors and the people who work in the laundries.