Tagged: Gamergate

Joe Corallo: Mine @ NYCC & #ComicsGate

This past week or so has been about getting ready for NYCC. ComicMix has a panel for our successfully funded comics collection, Mine!, which benefits Planned Parenthood. I’ll be there with fellow ComicMix team members Molly Jackson, Mike Gold and Mindy Newell as well as Mine! contributors Tee Franklin, Gabby Rivera and moderator Sheilah Villari. We’ll be at room 1A02 from 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm on Saturday, October 8 at the Javits Center on Manhattan’s mid-town west side. If you’re at NYCC, please come on by – we’ll have a sneak peek at some new art from the book!

This past week or so, there has also been more than a little turmoil in the comics community.

Since I wrote my piece about the Aubrey Sitterson incident a couple of weeks ago, events surrounding #ComicsGate have escalated. From blocking and doxxing to accusations and deplatforming, things are really intensifying in the lead-up to NYCC as followers and subscribers keep going up after these conservative comics critics involved. Because of everything that’s been going on I feel that it’s important to discuss this further.

As I stated last time, part of what’s been going on has been that comics critics on YouTube and social media who lean conservative (or libertarian, in this instance) are calling out specific creators for their content; being Social Justice Warriors (SJWs); and are, in some cases using direct and targeting language that attacks a creator for their minority status. Often in cases like this, and #ComicsGate is no exception, some followers end up taking things to the next level and using even more divisive and hurtful language and carrying out acts of targeted harassment and doxxing.

A video one comics critic released last week specifically targeted one comics journalist. The video ended up being flagged, then deleted by the uploader. Not long after, more videos were flagged on this comics critic’s YouTube account, leading to the account in question being suspended. Tensions have risen as accusations of attempted deplatforming of comics critics by comics journalists are being raised. As in #GamerGate, we are seeing similar arguments of “It’s about ethics in journalism,” whether or not that’s the actual issue.

Whenever issues like these come up or any other divisive politically driven issues arise you often hear the same things. You hear people talk about how the other side is horrible, how we shouldn’t even attempt to understand them and how we need to focus on beating them back and diminishing them. But in my case, I usually like to at least understand how things have come to be how they are.

Many of these conservative-leaning comics critics do more than provoke harassment of comics professionals to whom they are opposed: They’ve built a community. Like-minded comics fans who have similar issues with the direction that mainstream comics are going in get together for online hangouts, talk about the comics and creators they like, and more. Some of what they talk about I can even get behind, like how Black Bolt is one of my favorite books that Marvel is putting out right now. It’s easy to paint everyone involved as a troll, and that’s not to say there aren’t any trolls involved, but there are a lot of others who are fans of comics that want to see changes made and get riled up and moved to action when they can rally against perceived hypocrisy and calls to violence from the left.

Look, I’m an unapologetic liberal and political activist — I’m working on a Planned Parenthood benefit anthology, after all. That said, comics is not an exclusively liberal or conservative space and we have to exist without this level of conflict. There are plenty of conservative voices in comics who have put out quality work over the years including Chuck Dixon, Mike Baron, and Frank Miller. I (and others) am not advocating for an eradication of conservative thought from the comics medium.

With that in mind, there are things that cannot be tolerated. Transphobic language and personal attacks targeted at comics professionals and journalists cannot be tolerated. Using a creator’s’ background and minority status to attack them and their work cannot be tolerated. Allowing followers to go unchecked in their further attacks on comics professionals cannot be tolerated. Creators are getting death threats. We need comics professionals to feel safe.

Conservative voices in comics aren’t ever going to go away. If these comics critics, or anyone for that matter, want to be taken seriously by the comics industry that they’re criticizing then they need to drop the bigoted language and personal targeted attacks, and lead by example and call out the increasingly abusive behaviors of some their followers.


Martha Thomases: Listen!

Black Panther

Happy New Year! Or, if you were lucky enough to be invited to a wild New Year’s Eve party… happy Saturday!

We have 366 bright and shiny new days in which we can save the world, love our families, party with our friends, go to the movies and read comics. Time and space are great that way.

In the past year, despite Gamergate, there has been a trend towards including female characters and female perspectives in video games. In other words, the misogynist jerks who screamed about “journalistic integrity” made no difference at all in the gaming industry. In this case, I suspect the appropriate comment is, “Money talks / Bullshit walks.”

On the tale end of 2015, I read two things that really changed my worldview. The first was Between the World and Me by incoming Black Panther writer Ta-nehisi Coates. It’s a short book, but it took me a long time to get through it because it is painful to read. A letter to his son in the wake of Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston, Cleveland (the list goes on and on and on), it is a window into the African-American experience that I had never seen.

In the middle, I read this essay on The New York Times website about, essentially, the same subject. The writer was trying to express the parts of black lives that white people don’t understand.

Naturally, he was trashed in the comments.

I don’t entirely understand this. In both of these examples, black men are writing about their personal experiences as Americans of color. They don’t say that they know every other African-American, nor do they claim to know every white person. They describe what happened to them, and what it felt like, and how it shapes their perceptions.

No one likes to be called a racist. No one likes to be called a bigot of any kind. And yet, we are all of us guilty of at least a few prejudices. There isn’t any way around it. We live in a society that was built on slavery, on sexism and homophobia and anti-Semitism and xenophobia. As a white person, I benefit from this, even though I never consciously made that choice.

A few decades ago I attended a weekend seminar on “Dismantling Racism.” I was surprised when the first day and a half was spent asking each of us to talk about ways we felt outside the norm. We might have been fat or non-white or non-Christian or disabled or foreign-born. Then, by Sunday afternoon, we were shown how to each use our differences to understand racism.

That’s a tremendous oversimplification. Nevertheless, it changed my life.

I often mention my Jewish upbringing. Being Jewish at an Episcopal boarding school was one of the defining experiences of my life. I was called names. I was required to sit through Sunday morning religious services during which they read passages from the New Testament that I knew had been used to justify the torture and murder of Jews through the centuries. When I would mention this, I would be told I was “too sensitive” and to get over it.

My experience is not the same as that of African-Americans. I can “pass” as Gentile, and I’m white. Still, my experience gives me a window through which to understand.

Black Panther is not a character I’ve ever followed. When Coates’ run starts, I’ll make sure to pick it up.

Let’s try to spend at least part of 2016 listening to each other.

Martha Thomases: Gen Con Freedom Fighters

When I first started to work in comics, even though the medium was looked down on by mainstream culture as a bunch of geeks, it was very much an old boys’ club. There were women involved, even feminist women, but we were few and far between, leftovers from the hippie and underground comix scene. The boys in the boys’ club were as terrified of being considered feminine or queer as everyone else in the world was terrified of being considered geeks.

And now, being a geek is cool.

As geek culture becomes more mainstream, the definition simultaneously becomes more vague and more specific. That is, the meaning is in the ear of the beholder.

This week we saw some evidence that geek culture has transcended homophobia. Not that there aren’t still plenty of homophobes (and misogynists) (and racists) among us, but they are no longer our loudest voices.

As my pal, Marc Fishman, noted here on Saturday, Indiana recently passed a “religious freedom” law that, according to the Associated Press, “prohibits state laws that ‘substantially burden’ a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of ‘person’ includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.” For example, a bakery owned by conservative Christians (or Muslims) (or Jews) could refuse to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple.

The people who support the bill don’t like the way it has been perceived by the public, because it makes them look like the bigots that they are. As this Christian news site describes it:

“Under Indiana’s religious freedom law, not one Gen Con attendee (gay, transgender, cross-dressing) could be denied a seat at a lunch counter by that mythical boogeyman – the Christian bigot burger-maker with his ‘gaydar’ fully activated. That’s not what this law does.

“Instead, it protects a private business owner (who might be gay themselves) from being coerced by the power of government to act in a manner incompatible with their deeply held religious convictions. In other words, it protects the Jewish sign maker from being forced by the state to make pro-Nazi placards for the next skinhead convention.”

Aside #1: There is a long history of printers refusing to publish work with which they disagree, whether because the content is “pornographic” or otherwise politically distasteful. These printers simply turn away work they don’t want to do, without wrapping themselves in any kind of religious trappings.

Aside #2: So far, there have been no laws protecting the religious freedom of those devoted to other proscriptions from the book of Leviticus. I eagerly anticipate the first case in which a tattooed person or a menstruating woman is denied service because such things are forbidden by the Bible.)

Gen-Con, by the way, was one of the first companies to announce that they would look for a more hospitable business environment. Yes, the game convention. Rarely have I been so proud of my geek-dom. Instead of presenting themselves as the home of the Gamergate crowd, Gen-Con chose to stand up for all the people who enjoy gaming, insisting that everyone be welcome.

In the process, they pointed out that geeks (even queer and female and trans and non-white geeks) have money to spend and we won’t be shamed into use our dollars in ways that insult our own selves.

In other nerd news this week, the tech venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers won a Pyrrhic victory over Ellen Pao. She had sued them for gender discrimination and lost, but in the process she opened the curtain on the casual misogyny of tech culture. As with Anita Hill a few decades ago, this case will have long-term effects that will last longer than the particular judgment.

And the Ellen Pao decision has the added benefit of not putting Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court!

It’s been a good week. Say it loud, “I’m a Geek and I’m Proud.”

Martha Thomases: And Today’s Holiday Is…

Today is Boxing Day. According to Wikipedia “Boxing Day is a holiday traditionally celebrated the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradespeople would receive gifts, known as a ‘Christmas box’ from their bosses or employers… in the United Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and other Commonwealth nations, as well as Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden.”

Which is, as the British say, bollocks. With no history or evidence whatsoever, I consider Boxing Day to be the holiday in which we put all our unwanted gifts into a box they came in and return them to the , store for something we want. And since that works better as a premise for this column, that’s what I’m going with.

Here are some trends from 2014 popular culture that I would like to see returned and exchanged for something better:

  • The new Wonder Woman team. I don’t know anything about the strategy that involves putting a married couple to work on the same book at the same time. Perhaps the editors thought everything would flow more smoothly if the writer and artist were in the same house. However, in the case of Meredith and David Finch, I think they made a poor choice. Finch’s art is too reminiscent of the kind of T&A that passes for story-telling these days, and Meredith’s words and plots don’t help any. I don’t think I would enjoy their characterizations of any super-heroines, but certainly not Wonder Woman. She is supposed to be strong and independent and a peaceful warrior, not armored eye candy.
  • Making trilogies into four parts. I understand that movie studios want to get every last penny they can from the ticket-buying public (and, later, the video-on-demand buying public and the DVD buying public). I understand that lots of people get jobs from making an extra movie. Unfortunately, they don’t take the epic and re-divide it into four parts. They take the first two parts, then split the third in two. The first part of the third book ends on a cliff-hanger and is not in the least bit satisfying. That’s not how story structure works.
  • Incompatible media. I’m old enough to remember the conflict between Beta and VHS. More recently, I remember the conflict between Blu-Ray and HD. It was incredibly aggravating and stressful to want new technology, but to also know that picking the wrong format would cost thousands of dollars.

The problem this year is not the machines, but the purveyors. I enjoy lots of streaming services, especially Netflix and Amazon Prime. Unfortunately, my Apple TV won’t let me watch the latter on the big TV in my living room. I could buy the plug-in that Amazon makes, but that way lies madness. I don’t want a bunch of little plastic devices sticking out of my television set. I want one that lets me access whatever I want.

  • Intolerant fan bases. I never thought I would live to see the day when my beloved comic books would be an important part of the popular culture. Not only do they inspire movies and television shows that win awards and top the ratings charts, but they earn spots on top-ten lists. It’s really great. People I know from the non-comics parts of my life read graphic novels now.

Unfortunately, not everyone is happy to see nerd culture in general, and comics in particular, become popular. Gamergate is still an issue. Women at comic conventions still get hassled, especially (but not only) if they are cosplayers. Twenty years ago, when a bunch of us started Friends of Lulu, we were harassed by those who were threatened by our involvement in the industry>.

I think the reactionary voices are louder now than they have been because they are on the way out. I think the capitalist glee at the new customer dollars will eventually overcome the boys club (and the white club, and the straight club and the Christian club etc. etc. etc.).

Here’s wishing you more and better in 2015.


Emily S. Whitten: A Female Gamer in the Maelstrom of #Gamergate

For today’s column I was going to write about fan conventions. I’ve been covering fan conventions pretty non-stop since the con season really kicked into gear, and I’ve still got a plethora of great pictures, videos, and interviews to share. I’ve got interviews from Dragon Con with Bill Farmer, the cast of Arrow, and Mary McDonnell. I’ve got a report on the Harvey Awards and Baltimore Comic Con and all the great comics creators who were there. Heck, I’m not even done writing about SDCC panels, even though July seems like a distant memory now.

But instead of writing about all of that fun stuff, I’m going to be writing about something entirely different and much more distressing. And that is my thoughts as generated by the current state of the gaming community, in the wake of a series of events and attacks that is so widespread, nebulous, and in some instances so based on hearsay that it is difficult to condense into one comprehensive and reliable article with accompanying links. Instead of trying to cover every corner of what’s been going on, I’d like to address my own ruminations on what I’ve seen. But before I do that, here is one of the best summaries I’ve read of “Gamergate” and the events leading up to it.

Let’s move on to why I’m writing about this. At the heart of much of the animosity spewing forth from the various factions involved in Gamergate is the issue of the place of females in the gaming community. There are people being attacked as hateful misogynists, and people being attacked as whiny feminists (and their “dimwitted knights in shining armor”). Some of this is cloaked in “concerns” over journalistic integrity in the gaming journalism community (spurred by an airing of dirty laundry between exes in the community). But I’ve read as much as I can stomach of the Twitter hashtags, news write-ups, etc. as I can for now, and mostly what I’m seeing is gender hatred, skewing heavily in the direction of hating on or negating the views of female gamers. And frankly, it’s horrifying and depressing to read.

I am female, and I am a gamer. I self-identify as a gamer because I love playing video games and have spent countless hours doing it; I’ve participated heavily and vocally in a months-long beta for a game I was excited about and wanted to see done well, including discussing game mechanics and story and character design directly with developers; I review video games when the spirit moves me; and at Dragon Con a couple of weekends ago I was super-excited to finally cosplay as Chell from Portal 2 (not the first video game costume I’ve done, either). And even all of the above is only part of my life-long involvement and interest in gaming. I call myself a gamer by choice, and (this is key) no one can tell me I am not a gamer, because it is my choice to be one, and it is not anyone else’s right to tell me what or who I am.

And yet (a) more than a few times in various fora, in conjunction with someone being aware of or finding out that I am a female, my identity as a “real” gamer and my opinions about gaming have been called into question; and (b) due to the ugliness surrounding the current state of the gaming community, the positive feeling I would ordinarily have in discussing games with someone else who plays video games and telling them that I am a gamer too is tainted and tarnished. And that’s very sad, and why I feel the need to address this subject now.

I want to talk first about point (a), because some people in the current discussion are using the gamer/not a gamer delineation as a way to negate others’ opinions on how things should be in the industry, and who has the right to say how things should be; and coupling that in many instances with gender. This is a classic example of something I’ve written about in detail before, i.e. geeklitism, and it’s just as invalid a stance to take in gaming discussions as it is in all other arenas of fandom.

The first reason is that like any other area of fandom or enthusiasm (whether it be geeky, sports-related, carpeteering, or any other avocation or vocation), identifying as a gamer is a choice of self, not of others. The person identifying as a gamer is the one who knows what makes them feel like one of the group, whether it be hours and hours of play, vociferous discussions about game developing, actual paid work in the industry, or any number of other things that make up what someone with a love of video games might do with their time. (Note: it is never simply “because I am a dude” or “because I am a gal.” So why do we keep bringing that into it at all?) No one else has the right to tell them they are or are not a gamer, and so basing a disagreement on this delineation negates the validity of the disagreement.

The second is that whether someone is a “gamer” or not does not determine whether they have a valid opinion on what is happening. Granted, if someone opines about things they literally know nothing about, then their opinion isn’t worth much. But if anyone out there does their research in the form of seeing and understanding what is going on and what everyone is saying about it, then they are entirely capable of forming and expressing a valid opinion on the issues. It might not be your opinion, but that doesn’t make it invalid or wrong, nor does their position of not being as into gaming as some other person out there (or being of a different gender, or whatever) negate its importance.

The third is that life is a fluid, fluid thing, and we grow, develop, discover new things, and change our lives constantly. So whether someone is at the same exact stage of their identification with a particular group as someone else is always going to be in flux, and some people are always going to be ahead or behind the median. But that doesn’t mean that those who are “ahead” are more in some way than those who are “behind,” or that this makes their opinions more valid. There is no one point on the graph where all fans or enthusiasts of something fall, because we are all different people.

As an example of what I’m talking about here, I’d like to look at one of my own geek loves – the Discworld, created by the wonderfully talented Sir Terry Pratchett. I’ve been a Discworld fan since approximately 1999. There are people who have been fans much longer than I; there are people out there who have just recently discovered and are delighting in the Discworld books or Discworld fan community. There are people who only know me from my Discworld fandom; and there are people who have known me for years and have no idea who Terry Pratchett is or that I have read all of his books numerous times. When I first started out as a reader of Pratchett, I literally had no idea there were fan communities online, or fan conventions in the U.K. for the Discworld series. Fast-forward to today, and I am known in much of the Discworld fan community for having co-founded and helped to run successful Discworld fan conventions, and for a period of time ran the website and social media for those conventions as well. Over the course of a number of years, I got more and more involved in the community of fans surrounding this particular body of literature; but at no point in my involvement did I actually feel like more or less of a fan. Once I started loving Discworld, I considered myself a fan, and that was that. And being a fan, there is no reason that my opinions on Discworld are more or less valid than any other fan’s.

Now let’s look at the effect of trying to use the geek/not a geek (and by extention, gamer/not a gamer) argument on someone to make a point. Are there any benefits to the geek community from taking the geeklitist stance? None that I can see. The only result of excluding someone’s opinion through this argument is to ostracize a person who identifies with you in some way, and to potentially lose their contribution to the community. Imagine if someone had said to me, once I’d identified as a fan but not yet really become heavily involved in the larger fan community, that I was not a Discworld fan because I didn’t post a lot on message boards; or because I hadn’t gone to the Discworld conventions; or because I’d never analyzed a Discworld book from an academic standpoint; or because I am a woman; or some other random category of geeklitist thought. It is entirely possible that I would have been discouraged from continuing to embrace the fan community, despite being a fan of the books. The North American Discworld Convention of 2009 might never have happened (although that’s not to imply that it was anything like a singlehanded accomplishment on my part, obviously.).  And that would have been pretty sad for everyone, because that was a great con at which over 1,000 Discworld fans had a great time.

To move this back into the arena of “gamers,” each person who identifies as a gamer has gone through some variation of the arc I just described above, or is in the process of going through it. But once they are into gaming enough to consider themselves a gamer, what makes any of us a better judge than the person themselves of whether that is accurate or not, or what criteria is valid? Nothing. And more importantly, what benefit is there for gamers who hold themselves up as judges of another person’s identity and passion and the validity of their opinions? All we are doing, when we do that, is alienating a potential friend or discussion partner, and stepping in the way of someone’s path on their journey of discovery into a thing we all purport to love, and into the possible positive consequences this could have for the community as a whole. Imagine if someone did that to you when you were first discovering your passion for gaming – and consider seriously whether it would have curtailed your pursuit of that interest, at the very least in the communal sense. Every time a member of a community questions or attacks someone else’s identification as a member of that community, or their opinion as such, they are hurting the community, and acting in a way I am sure they would have decried if it were done to them. Which brings me back to the point that geeklitism is not a valid or productive stance to take when having a discussion about gaming.

Now let’s look at point (b), of the current ugliness that is circling the internet rounds about gamers and the gaming community, and the effect it has. Whether the rumors related to one couple’s imploded relationship, and its impact on gaming journalism, are true or not, they have served as an ignition point for an enormous amount of hate, much of it aimed at females in the gaming community (a common form of geeklitism). After reading through what I see being posted on Twitter and blog posts, I expect that just by writing this piece I am inviting people to accuse me of things like lying about something, whiny feminism, or lumping all gamers into the same group (the #notallgamers tag on Twitter has been in part misused to try to downplay the misogyny that’s out there, by saying it’s only some gamers that are like that, like that makes it something we shouldn’t decry). I sincerely hope that I am not bringing down upon myself more personal attacks, like those aimed at Games Journalism Prize-winner Jenn Frank, Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, and others. I don’t deny that some small part of me fears that writing about this topic is going to result in harassment or abuse, despite there being no reason for that result in a fair and logical world. But right now, after reading about “Gamergate,” the gaming community doesn’t seem to me to be a fair and logical world. It seems to be a world full of unreasoning finger-pointing and blame and hate, aimed at women who are trying to follow their passion.

Whatever percentage of gamers or the gaming community are engaging in the behavior of misogyny, sexuality shaming, hatred, harassment, and abuse, they are the loudest voices in this debacle, and are making the entire community look absolutely terrible. I know for a fact that not all gamers are like that, because I am a gamer with gamer friends. But when I read this stuff, that terribleness is the part that I see. And it’s not even unique. It’s the same terrible behavior I’ve seen aimed at women in costumes and in comics fandom – of treating females as less valid than male peers, or as objects there just for male enjoyment or abuse. The gaming community, while it has its own unique flavor, is not a special snowflake that needs to be defended or it will fall to pieces. It is, like other geek arenas, a group of people that, to date, has clearly not done enough to root out hatred towards a portion of its population, or has even actively participated in that hatred. It is also a group that could be made stronger by taking a hard look at itself and its treatment of a portion of its membership. And it is a group that runs the risk of losing people who make a valuable contribution to its growth and development if it doesn’t do so. I fail to see the upside of that, and that’s something the folks spreading hate should stop and think about.

As a female geek, I move through the world of geekdom being aware that I may be belittled, dismissed, harassed, or attacked in some manner, whether verbally or physically, for engaging in geek fandom. Why do I know this? Because I’ve already experienced these things. Multiple times. In ways that I have never seen happen to my male counterparts. And although I continue to participate in fandom and express my love for the geek things I love, I would be lying if I said each time I see things like Gamergate, or am personally and negatively affected by the attitudes I’m seeing in Gamergate, it doesn’t make me a little less likely to want to engage, and also a little less likely to want to have a reasoned discourse to try to resolve the underlying issues that cause the ugliness.

It makes me more likely to want to say that all I see around me is hatred and misogyny, and that it just ain’t worth it. I both identify with and dread the possibility of winding up in the position of Jenn Frank, who reached the point where enough was enough and simply quit. I can’t imagine being on the receiving end of so much harassment that I am forced to give up a part of my identity and passion in order to feel safe and not hated by the world. I feel sad that she was forced to that point, and that the world of geekdom, in all its fiefdoms, is still not a safe place for women. I hope we can change that; because if we don’t, no matter what the haters might think, the reality is that everybody loses.

Until next time, Servo Lectio.