Comics Guys, Harassment, and Missing Stairs
I originally wrote this as part of a response to Tess Fowler’s brave-as-hell decision to name Brian Wood as the dude who’d harassed her at a convention. Posting it again, on its own, because there are some things I want to expand on…
Every time I have a conversation with another woman about which conventions or pros to be careful of; every time we discreetly pass around names and tips for staying safe (safer) (safeish), I get angrier and angrier that dudes are not, as far as I know, having parallel conversations about NOT DOING THAT SHIT IN THE FIRST PLACE. Certainly not with the frequency and volume and routine that we recommend wearing heavy shoes and not letting yourself end up alone in a corner with that one guy. Certainly not enough to make a goddamn dent.
I’m putting this firmly on the men in comics, because, you know what? Men are the overwhelming majority of the people in the industry with institutional and hiring power. Even most of the most senior women in editorial departments answer to one or more male boss, usually a dude who has been in the industry long enough and played its games effectively enough to be pretty solidly entrenched in the existing power structure; and, even if he is basically a decent human being, to have capitulated to and internalized and regurgitated and privileged appeals to tradition and status quo over things like personal dignity and safety and minimal motherfucking professionalism.
Men in comics, especially men in positions of institutional power and popular visibility, you need to step the fuck up. It has been going on for so, so, so goddamn long. And the women who speak up get written off as squeaky wheels and malcontents and difficult, and patronized and blacklisted and quietly driven off, and everyone is fucking terrified to go public because the worst perpetrators are the most entrenched and protected.
So: If you’re in a position to speak up, and you’re not doing it; if you’re a boss who looks the other way while your male employees edge out and harass and sometimes even flat-out assault female colleagues and fans; if you’re a professional with enough of a name to command attention; and you see this and don’t speak up long and loud, fuck you. Fuck you so much, for standing by while shitheads poison the well because you were too afraid or apathetic to rock the boat when you were the only one with an oar. Fuck you for throwing your colleagues and people who could and should have been your colleagues under the bus, or standing by quietly while someone else did; for sitting on evidence and documentation; for not speaking up when you have the credibility and platform to make an actual goddamn difference.
When you see harassment and abuse, and you are in a position to call it out and effect actual consequences, and you don’t, you don’t get to be a good guy anymore. You have become part of the problem. You are why this shit persists—every fucking bit as much as the people perpetrating it.
I mean: When I said that one guy in the first paragraph, you knew who I was talking about, didn’t you? Doesn’t matter if we were thinking of the same names (and oh, you adorable, naive children who assumed that there could only have been one). What matters is that you knew and you didn’t do a fucking thing.