A couple days ago I posted this on Deviant Art in my journal.
My very long rebuttal is under the cut.
I don’t think you understand the kind of sexism at work here. Let me explain:
=====HOW SEXISM OPERATES AS A SYSTEM WITHIN COMICS=====
Sexism is a system, not someone telling you that you suck because you’re a woman. Let’s say we lived in a perfect world where women were paid the same amount as men, women had 50 percent of the jobs across the board (to just lower level jobs), and women made up half of our government.
Now if you told that woman that they suck, it would have far less impact because they could easily say “no we don’t” because there would be absolutely no evidence to the contrary, they would have never been treated as if certain things were off limits or would be difficult because of their gender. Thisis a very simplistic example, but the point is that things that are said/done to a woman have more strength behind them because of history and the realities of life. Many people say “Well sexism isn’t a problem now”. But this is not true, for those reasons I listed above. If sexism didn’t exist, you wouldn’t be saying “women are just uninterested or busy”. Statistically, if all things were equal, that would be impossible.
Alright, telling a woman that they suck is not the same thing as what’s going on with DC but I wanted to illustrate why something you might not consider effective, is effective against someone who does not have equal footing. If you want to read more about how privilege operates on large and small scales in ways that you might not have perviously considered, look over this checklist on white privilege.
Anyways, sexism is the systematic oppression of women, it’s a machine by which women are oppressed. A machine is thoughtless and doesn’t have any actual malice, it’s a robot. Sexism is a machine that we live inside of that was made thousands of years ago. Just because people (in this case DC comics) is not punching ladies in the face, doesn’t mean that they are not supporting a sexist system.
Female creators go “they are nice to me” and men go “women don’t even want to read superhero comics”. I’m sure they are perfectly nice to the women they do hire, but they are not questioning why women do not apply in a 50/50 ratio. Like you, they say that women just do not like superhero comics because they see women buying more indie comics, webcomics or manga. I will tell you why this is fallacy of causation. You and many others like you, do not consider that this is because manga creators are 50/50 women (and I believe women are slightly more). webcomics are also surprisingly female wth a large majority of female fans as well. If you need more evidence of the power that female creators have in Japan, the richest woman in japan is Rumiko Takahashi, a female comic book writer/artist (ranma 1/2, Inu Yasha, etc).
One of the best cartoons in the superhero genre I’ve ever seen is an anime called “Tiger and Bunny”, available on Hulu. It’s a show that has interesting female and queer and minorities in it. When you say “comic books” most Americans associate that with superheroes. In manga, the genres provided by LARGE, IMPORTANT companies are much broader and steadily more and more progressive. Women love this show.
They do not think that perhaps women do not like their comics because 1) women tend to go to college more than men now, and they are educated in feminism and at the very least, literary dissection. Comics tend not to hold up to these lenses, these women are not going to put up with bullshit. 2) The more common spaces for comic book fans to gather (comic book shops, conventions, and popular message boards) are not welcoming towards women. They are filled with men that are sexual harassers, openly sexist and hostile, and generally conservatively minded. 3) Women are generally unwanted or unknown to these companies (“WHO SHOULD WE HAVE HIRED? WHO?”)
Consider that panel after panel of top name creators and important staff members found it appropriate to turn a crowd against people that brought up sexism in their comics. Consider how it was acceptable at the biggest convention to dismiss and laugh at a woman, how not just the people on the panel but the FANS were cruel to her and theo ther gentleman. What is your explanation for this? It was not until female fans made their presence known, came out of the wood work and raised hell that they realized that there were consequences to their behavior.
You’ve said that women are not interested in producing superhero comics and that they are generally not fans. I will give you that perhaps women are not a half of the fans, but I can tell you that the fans I attract to my fan art of superhero characters are largely women. Also, fanfiction that contains superhero comics are pretty much 99% done by females. Lj fan communities are almost always started by women, so are tumblrs dedicated to them. Further, twitter accounts for superhero characters are also VERY commonly women. There are lots of female fans, they’re just less visible. Much of the dissection of comics is done by women on places like tumblr and blogger, those are overwhelmingly female. Frankly, you just don’t seem to go to places or be aware of places that have a high percentage of female superhero fans. Male fans tend to do fanart. Female fans do fanart, create spaces and blogs solely dedicated to them, create fanfiction. Men depict the characters, women delve into them beyond simple reviews. Why are they in these places? Because nothing keeps them out. With the internet they can buy comics in safety and peace, they can discuss in peace.
Also, I have two superhero comics, that I make with another woman and our fans are predominately women. If what you were saying was true, then our fans would be mostly male or even 50/50 but our fans are mostly women. So, again, you are wrong to think that women are not attracted to these comics, despite their problems that I will discuss. But know that these women wish to fix these comics which is part of their engagement, they WANT to love the Big Two, despite the treatment of women.
====PERSONAL EXAMPLES OF HOW SEXISM AFFECTED ME====
Let me give you a few examples of things that would have deterred many female fans that I experienced:
When I went to a comic book store as a teen, men would watch me and hit on me or crane their heads to see what I was doing. They would come directly up to me and suggest comics, try to explain who characters were although at that time I subscribed to Wizard and considered myself a veritable expert on comics. Once, a man that couldn’t have been less than in his mid twenties put his hand on my arm and shoulder repeatedly, and offered to buy my comics for me. I was maybe 13? I then had to bring my father with me so that I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable. Please imagine how you might feel if you were hit on by an older man in a comic book store as a teen.
You don’t even have to consider the super creepy guy, just imagine being followed and repeatedly spoken to in a condescending manner, being hit on by older men, by being talked to as if you were very strange for liking comics everytime you walk into a store.
At this same store the guy behind the counter was very nice to me and treated me with respect, he knew that when I came in I bought at least a hundred bucks worth of comics, and also bought much of the manga he had a hard time moving, he also knew how well versed I was, knew I was young and told me I gave him hope for the future of comics because I was a girl. But at other stores where I am new, I am not treated this way.
Even as an adult men at comic book stores will approach me, they will treat me as if I couldn’t possibly know anything about comics. When I first arrived in Seattle, I asked when the next Wonder Woman was coming out. He told me that books come out on a monthly basis. I was amazed that he assumed I didn’t know this. He gave no such explanation to my male friend.
There is also a system in this store where you give them your name and they record which books you’ve bought so that you don’t buy it again. He offered every other custom this option when they bought books but not me.
There is also the problem of overly sexualized characters. You might argue that “Superman is idealized as well”! But Superman is idealized in a manner in which he looks powerful, not sexy. Example, Carol Ferris’ Star Sapphire outfit would never be placed on a male character, neither would Black Canary’s outfit. One recent example is of Male readers tend to be blind to the overly sexualized representations of women. It is difficult to hand a female reader something that people outside the superhero genre would consider softcore porn or at the very least sexualized for no apparent reason. I did not read Black Canary until I was older because I was confused by her outfit. I think men would have a difficult time handing their mothers a superhero comic. Women in these comics only come in one shape and one shape only. Men in comics can be short, fat, thin, old young. Women are only allowed to be one shape, sometimes they don’t even have facial features that are different from each other (All the women that Jim Lee draws, for example, are the same but Alfred and Batman and the Joker look completely different with different body types). It is also not important in comics for the men’s faces to be physically attractive at all. Quite frequently, men are given grizzled or aggressive or just plain unattractive faces because these comcis are not worried about appealing to anyone that is attracted to men.
This overly sexualized tone carries over into the real world as well.
I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed that the female versions of comic book character costumes sold during Halloween are almost always sexualized unless they are for children.
When I read Wizard, I slowly realized there were no female creators except one that was writing Witchblade, called Christina Z. She went by her last initial so that she would not be harassed. This did not stop Wizard magazine from talking nonstop about how beautiful she was, the never spoke of the attractiveness of any male writer and rarely spoke about any of her actual writing skills.
She was very lovely. I remember that upon seeing her, I had two thoughts: I’ve never seen lady writer! And I cannot be a lady writer because I am not pretty enough. And I didn’t know ANY female comic book artists!! Wizard never mentioned one that I know of. These were not things I consciously thought about, but I know that I felt disappointed that she looked so lovely and not, you know, average. And at a certain point I came to a conclusion that I couldn’t make superhero comics because it would be weird to do so. I thought that it would be okay to create manga, and my early comics were VERY manga like (even in college!) but I felt that superhero comics were impossible. It wasn’t until I met other women online that I realized that I was not strange for me to like comics.
Unrealistic depictions of women affected my writing and my art, I remember reading a tutorial in Wizard by Jim Balent (google him if you’re not familiar), I used to draw women like that, or attempt to at least.
=====HIRING PRACTICES IN THE REAL WORLD=======
Let me explain to you how people are hired, especially writers. Networking is a process by which people assist others to making connections and get jobs. Although this may seem unfair it, by itself, is a very good, merit based practice if done properly. The concept is that you would not recommend a person without truly believing in your abilities. (Sometimes people do this badly and suggest their friends even if they are unqualified but we’re not even talking about those people).
Ok so let’s say a perfectly nice man is asked to recommend someone to a job. This man will quite likely than not have more male friends than female ones. But, let’s say that he has the same number of male friends as female friends, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Considering that there are fewer women in his field, who is he more likely to suggest? What are the odds that he is friends with a female comic book artist? Now this man is not being mean or anything, he simply had more men to choose from on the matter.
=====WRITING/ART/EDITING PRACTICES IN THE REAL WORLD=====
On that note, let’s talk about the man that is hired. A male is more likely to have the same take on the characters as his predecessors because he will tend to have the same view point. He is more likely to focus on male characters because they will be the characters he’s most comfortable writing. Because he focuses on the male characters, he will focus on the relationships between men (which relationship do you see depicted more often, Batman’s relationship with Superman or their relationship with Wonder Woman? There is a reason that the Superman/Batman title exists.
The work will be most likely edited by an editor who is a man. This man will suffer from many of the same issues and he is less likely to consider how a minority will view the comic, he is unlikely to correct sexist depictions of the character.
And their work will be most likely followed by the same fans. These fans will not give these books to women in their lives because they think they are unlikely to like them as well. These men gravitate towards characters that they identify with, mostly male characters so the creators think “only these characters are popular so we’ll ignore the ones that sell less”.
Furthermore, the men in the company, because they outnumber the women, are more likely to rise through the ranks, to get exclusive contracts, to be kept on permanently and be promoted. Part of the reason Gail Simone is promoted is because of her novelty, because she is so singular, her name is easily recognized.
As you can see, none of these men are particularly bad, only ignorant and sometimes not even that. Do you see how this is a system? Do you see how this system perpetuates itself? Do you see how the only way that this can be solved is through education and the placement of women (of the many TALENTED women that do exist in other industries and online whose skills can be transferred to comics easily) on creative teams and in important editing positions. It takes thought and care.
=====WHY WOMEN IN THE INDUSTRY ARE IMPORTANT=====
More realistic representations of women: Female creators have an easier time writing women, probably because they take into account things that men do not (or rather, do not have to). Men can turn in a page where a woman’s breasts are shaped in such a manner as to indicate that they are not wearing a bra (I recall a promotional picture of Batwoman with I think the Justice League). A woman might notice this whereas a male artist would not, also his male editor might not notice either. This applies to writing as well. I remember a comic where Black Canary was trying to find lingerie. It showed her coming in and out of a dressing room with different lingerie. A woman would know that you are not allowed to try on panties in a lingerie store. Things like these, even small things, alienate a female reader. There was another issue of Powergirl where she said she didn’t have a logo on her chest because she hadn’t been sure what symbol to put there. This is not how clothing is made. At all. Perhaps a woman could have told the writer this?
Women have money. They drive industries, many industries with their money. Further, as I mentioned before women are more likely to be college graduates than their male counterparts and college graduates are more likely to have more money. They have money to spend and the Big Two are not catering to them, they are not welcome, they are treated in a hostile manner without a second thought at huge conventions. I hope all of these examples will show you how this woman’s entry and your comments are not helpful and ignorant of the realities of sexism as well as why this is an important issue and not something you should rail against when you see people trying to fix the problem. Consider why you are so eager to react in a hostile manner to a petition to get more women hired. Do you think there are enough? I don’t understand your purpose and maybe you should think about what your purpose is.