This isn’t going to be a long one today, but it’s important, and it’s been a pet peeve of mine for a long time, because it’s pervasive.
If you’re a woman, interested in comics, or writing about comics, or making comics, you’ve felt at one time or another that fan reaction to you is based, sometimes solely, on your appearance and your relative attractiveness. Without fail, every time we post a picture of a female creator or one of our writers, someone will comment on their looks almost immediately. When we interview a female creator (we admit they are rare and exotic), comments always follow, not about the content, but about whether they pass the attractiveness test. Complimentary or not, it’s a problem. It surely happens in all realms of pop culture, and likely life, but the thing is, comics have an image problem. Comics are viewed, more than other hobbies, as the realm of the man-boys, and stuff like this doesn’t help.
Then there’s the comic shop stories we’ve gotten from women going into new shops and getting treated in ways other than exactly the same as you should treat any customer coming in.
Comics can’t afford it. The medium is hemorrhaging paying consumers, and we want to treat it like a locker room boys club, we’re going to lose the potential to grow the industry. That’s not just a problem for publishers. That’s a problem for readers. The more revenue they lose, the more it’s going to affect what and how you’re reading. High prices, canceled books, digital price parity, and more are all a way to get the readership to foot the bill.
It’s not just that one girl gets turned away from reading comics. When they go, it’s shutting down the channels for other female readers who might have been brought along eventually.
This isn’t about old fashioned chivalry, it’s about being decent and inclusive. You can talk to some people you’re familiar with in one way, and when you’re in public, be a grown up and act the other way. Message boards and blogs and the internet are “public”.
Be cool. Don’t be subjective. Understand that there are ages old power dynamics at work in how men treat women. Even if you think you’re being complimentary, just don’t. Yes, there are even women who do trade on it in one way or another. I am not touching that and the politics therein with a 900 foot pole. There’s such a thing as acknowledging gender as an actual thing, and then there’s this weird gender dynamic we’ve achieved in comics, which is so male it’s frightening. Hell, no wonder most of us don’t know how to act. Have you ever read early Fantastic Four issues? They treat Sue like garbage.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. If you’re a guy who likes comics, talking to a girl who likes comics, just treat her normally. If she’s attractive or not, it doesn’t matter. There are some ugly guys making comics, and no one cares. Women should get the same respect. Be inclusive, and help prove that comics and the comics community can be a wonderful thing for anyone who wants to take part in it.