Last night I became aware of this, a review of the cover of Teen Titans #1 from DC Comics (this is an upcoming #1. Yes, they just shit out #1s like I shit out #2s.) by Janelle Asselin. It's a pretty reasonable review; I'm kind of impressed with the absolute depth of the critique.
But not everybody was so impressed! Brett Booth, the artist on The Flash gave some feedback that feels really weird and condescending and sexist:
I see, the only way I can refute your argument is to not use logic, biology, google and also I can't have a penis. Sounds fair.— Brett Booth (@Demonpuppy) April 13, 2014
but the bad news is that Booth was among the most measured replies the critic received.
You see, I’m also doing a survey about sexual harassment in comics. (If you’d like to take this survey, you can find it here.) And so as soon as the angry fanboys started looking me up after the CBR article, they discovered this survey and started answering my questions and using the open box at the end to write in all sorts of awfulness. I’ve gotten all manner of bullshit within the survey now, but at least the ones with the rape threats or other asshole comments tell me which responses to disregard. If you really want to “get me” and prove that sexual harassment doesn’t exist in comics, I don’t know, maybe it’s better for you to answer honestly about how you haven’t been sexually harassed. Because certainly sending me rape threats proves my point, not yours.
What bums me out is how matter-of-factly Asselin shares this information about rape threats. See, it's something that happens to women who write on the internet all the time.
But they're just words, you say. They're meaningless. Those people won't really rape anybody. Maybe. Maybe not. The threat itself is a violation, an aggressive, ugly and frankly disheartening way of demeaning another human being for the crime of having an opinion. I have received death threats - lots of them, honestly - and many of them I brush off but some are scary. I've contacted the authorities about some in the past, and I will again, and I'm not ashamed of that. I can't even imagine what it feels like to be threatened with rape (although I did have one particular lunatic threaten to rape my whole family).
What the fuck is wrong with you people? How do you get to the point where an opinion about a comic book cover makes you so angry you make a threat to violently assault someone else?
I'm not trying to appropriate someone else's problems here. Heidi MacDonald at Comics Beat put it perfectly:
This is not women’s problem. This is MEN’S PROBLEM. I know most internet trolls are teenaged boys who don’t know any better, but this is MAN’S THING. This is something you men need to figure out and condemn and deal with. There should be MAN RULES about it, like how you’re not supposed to go into the urinal next to another guy, that kind of thing. Belittling, embarrassing, threatening and shaming women should not be some kind of masculine rite of passage. It should be the opposite of being a real man.
She's right. This is my problem. As a man who is part of fandom, and who has a large voice in fandom, this is 100% my problem. People like me - white, male nerds - are behaving badly and they need to be regulated. I've been trying to create a tolerant, inclusive atmosphere on this site and this makes me realize how much harder I have to try. I feel like we have a good commenting community, but I'm going to be patrolling them with an iron fist from now on. If you're reading this and you've ever threatened a woman with rape - for any reason, but especially because she didn't like a fucking comic book you liked - please stop coming here. I don't want your views. I don't need your readership.
The people who make these threats, these despicable trolls, they're not real fans. How can a real fan of genre fiction - progressive, forward-thinking works - be a misogynist? How can someone who professes to be a fan of superheroes - those who put their lives on the line for justce and decency and other people - threaten sexual assault on someone else? If you're one of those people you're not a fan. You're a fucking parasite on fandom. You're a disease. The enemy. And if we can't educate you and improve you we will drum you out, shame you away and leave you alone in the cold. There's no room in fandom for you.