Tuesday, January 10, 2006

MILE HIGH COMICS presents THE BEAT at COMICON.com: What it feels like for a girl

Heidi, as usual, is right. Go read it.

What stuck out to me most in the piece, is this snippet: "But the main thing that got me thinking is that sexual assault is not comics' problem; it's society's problem. While an examination of how comics treats women is always welcome, I was not convinced that this account had anything whatsoever to do with comics, or sexual harassment, based on the information given." She later goes in the direction that I'm about to, and I fully admit to hitching my wagon to hers, so I apologize in advance. But this stuff cannot be ignored.

It isn't a secret that assholes are a problem everywhere, regardless of where they're employed. I once had a former employee report to me that a man in a different department asked her about the events of her upcoming weekend while pretending to dry-hump a chair. Another male employee was let go because he wouldn't stop asking inappropriate questions about female employees' sex lives. It was maddening to me that this even needed to be done; who raised these morons? Who let them believe that was appropriate behavior? As Heidi says, this is a societal problem. But it's one we can address and absolutely do something about.

I am the (now former) step-father to three young girls. The youngest came into my life at the age of five, and even though she had never read a comic in her life, she already enjoyed tying a blanket around her neck, pretending to fly, and calling herself Supergirl. As quickly as I could find one (and they were damned rare), she got her first Supergirl action figure, and I encouraged her to start reading comics with me.

Start 'em young, right?

But I was also very aware of the fact that my hobby was one that was not as open and friendly to little girls as it needed to be. So I was very selective about what I showed her. And I kept her away from the local comics shops at the time, because they were unfit for her presence. Thanks to the terrific Brian Johnson and Khepri, I was able to find enough material to keep her interest moving along, though.

If you pull back and look at our society as a whole, the problems glare at you with eyes of steel. Poverty. Crime. Corruption. The list goes on. As an individual, it's easy to feel powerless when confronted with it all. The mountains are so large that the peaks seem out of reach. But you cannot let that powerlessness settle in to your soul. You just can't.

What you have to do, and as I said, Heidi's essay gets into this late in the text, is look at your neighborhood. Look in the immediate five foot radius. Make a difference. Then expand your reach a bit. Make it ten feet. Get the person next to you involved, either by spirit or by shame, and get them working on their own radius. And make it continue to spread.

Clean up your neighborhood.

That's what the brave young woman who was on the receiving end of that recent assault did. She drew a line in the sand and put the dirt on notice. Comics is no uglier a slum than any other, but it's the one we live in, because we love them. We don't love every resident or every house, but they're ours. Enough of us need to feel enough of a sense of duty and honor to each other that we start pressuring the other neighbors to paint their houses, cut the grass, and tow away the dead cars. It is shameful that we live this way. There's no reason we should.

We need to live in a place where I'm not afraid to take a five-year old girl inside without worrying about what she'll see or whom she'll meet. We need to gather on a block where a woman can walk down the sidewalk is seen as a creative spirit and collaborator, not as fresh meat. Yes, those problems will remain on the outside, where the rest of the crime and corruption have taken root. No question. In an optimistic world, we'll clean those neighborhoods someday, too. But for today, let's start at home. Don't patronize retailers who create that kind of environment. Don't buy comics from people known to be encouraging and participating in the worst behaviors. Support the works of those speaking out and those trying to make a difference.

Grab a broom. I've made a clean spot. Looks like I have to keep going.


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