Many ladies I admire have come out in the last few weeks to talk about their experiences with harassment in the comics industry or just general geek culture. I wanted to share as much as I feel comfortable sharing about my own experiences.
I first want to point out that sexual harassment and groping are just a few of the ways that women are made to feel unwelcome in the comics industry. My credentials and interest have been called into question from the time I first picked up comics to today. There has never been a point in my life in comics where I did not get grilled by dudes who apparently wanted me to PROVE I was a geek. But that’s not what this is about.
It is not an exaggeration to say that every woman I know in comics has experienced harassment. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of overhearing a guy say something disgusting about another woman - but you know what, in terms of corporate sexual harassment rules, that does count if it makes anyone uncomfortable. Other times, friends of mine have been groped, attacked, propositioned, and threatened by men at varying levels of power and influence in this industry. Friends have lost book deals because they wouldn’t hook up with their collaborator on a project or worked in an environment of constant fear that their attacker would be promoted (and then had to live through that attacker actually getting promoted).
I too have been harassed. Whether it’s a coworker telling me the only reason he didn’t hit on me was because he “respected” my significant other too much (forget that I am a person too, of course) or the artist who was working for me who compared me to pie he wanted to eat or the ass grabs and weird brush-ups at every convention and every post-convention party and bar… honestly I can’t even tell you how often I’ve been harassed and violated. It started the moment I stepped foot on a convention floor at 21 and never stopped. I’ve filed sexual harassment claims, I’ve shouted at men to stop, I’ve pushed groping hands away. But the next convention or event it’s someone new. I don’t say this for pity or because I want to start a mob to attack the men that did this (I could only name a handful anyway), but because people need to understand that this is life in comics for many women. We fight through this day after day, being made to feel unwelcome and less than the men who are in power in comics.
In conversations over the last few weeks, months, years? I’ve often said “You know, I would love to name names, but…” because there’s always a reason for us to stay silent about our attackers. In my case and in the case of many of my friends and acquaintances it’s because we want to keep working in comics and we don’t want to get wrapped up in the insanity that invariably follows the outing of such harassers. It’s even come up that saying anything at all, even not naming names, could impede getting work (a big consideration for me at the moment). Here’s the thing: if you don’t want to hire me because I’ve lived through harassment and refuse to be scared off from the comics industry, frankly I don’t want to work for you anyway. I will not be ashamed of the behavior of other people. I can be ashamed that I didn’t always call out the behavior, but I can also know that occasionally, as often as I could, I did the right thing and stood up for myself and other women.
I know a lot of great men in comics who would never, ever treat me or anyone else this way. I really value their friendship and I value that many of them are also outraged by instances of harassment. They know that the men who perpetuate that behavior aren’t good for anyone in the industry. I hope that as time goes on, they can all learn to be the best advocates possible when they are in a position to help women who have been harassed. Learn what you can, understand convention and business harassment policies, step in when you see something bad happening, and you will help this industry become a much better place. And that goes for everyone. Men can be (and are) harassed too. There should be no place in this industry or world for people who think they have a right to violate the boundaries of others.