I'm gonna do some Geekin’ Off here on Unacceptable Sexism & Sexual Assault Within the Counterculture
Janelle Assellin, a Guest Contributor of ComicBookResources.com, previously an editor at both DC and Disney comics and currently a project editor for Sideshow Collectibles, is is a very smart, talented, geeky, young woman. Assellin has been a professional in the comic book industry for awhile now, so it was curious (but if you’re aware of this behavior, completely expected) that she came under fire from fans this past week after her piece “Anatamoy of A Bad Cover: DC’s New ‘Teen Titans’ #1” went up April 11th on CBR.
I’ve read Assellin’s piece and not only did I find it completely credible, it was spot-on in its critique of the cover. There are plenty of surface level issues that make the cover insufficient for a brand name as professional as DC (distributors of Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, comics just to name three) but the biggest distraction on the cover is Wonder Girls breasts. They are huge. This girl is 17 at best, (the title is called “Teen Titans”) and these are implants. Assellin breaks down, for any male artists who apparently still don’t understand how to capture realistic bodies, the realism behind depicting teenage breasts, especially those of an action-packed superhero.
Many will be startled at what happens next but if you pay close enough attention to the industry you shouldn’t be that surprised. An unsettling truth is that overnight male comic fans began to pour in hate-tweets and hate-mail towards Assellin. They’re still pouring out, as of this moment on Reddit there’s a new “Open Letter to Janelle Assellin by user NoShadowFist posted not 8 hours ago.
This piece is criticizing her pointing out of Ken Rocafort, the artist of the cover, as the man partially to blame for the bombastic boobies
. But cheap shots across the bow aside, Assellin started getting it even worse than that.
Fans began to verbally assault her on twitter calling into question her professional career, her credibility as an editor, and making accusations that her gender blinds her from actually being capable of understanding “real art” when she sees it. Because a woman’s optic nerves are attached differently from those of a man’s, right? They called her coffee girl, dismissive, they even accused her of writing the “scandalous article” just to get more attention to women’s rights, which is apparently a cheap thing to do. Then it got ugly.
As it always does in the counter culture. She began to get sexually harassed and even had personalized rape threats direct messaged and e-mailed to her. That’s right, because a woman wrote an article that defended the proper anatomy of a teenage girl, she was given rape threats. It was no longer the “men’s rights” enthusiasts flexing their smallish masculinity. It was dickpicks, insults, sexual innuendoes, and assumptions that she got her job from blowing the right guy. Pretty soon, DC stock artist Bret Booth himself
got involved in the discussion and all sorts of hate speech about her began to run from his very fingers to actual fans brewing a stew of misogynistic hate and idiocy.
Thankfully many people came to her defense. Longtime comic enthusiast, writer, and feminist Marjorie Liu
, comic creators and husband/wife duo Matt Fraction & Kelly Sue DeConnick, DC’s “Batgirl” writer Gail Simone, and hundreds of fans flocked to her side. It felt great, but as Liu points out - it’s going to happen again. And again, until something changes. In four months we will forget about it, just like we did four months ago when it happened in November. The problem is, especially for men, we keep forgetting women are constantly subjected to this sort of sexism. From the idea that a male white, eurocentric character is the only one capable of being “the Everyman” to female creators being denied spots on panels at conventions because “we already have a female creator spot filled on the panel, that tackles the demographic, it would be too much to add you,” it is quite literally a social conundrum that is deeply entrenched into the counter culture of geeks. What can we do?
As a man, and only a fan (for now), the most I can do is call it when I see it. I call the people out, be it on twitter or in my local comic store, and I politely expose their sexist or violent speech, sometimes ask them to apologize. Seems a bit bossy doesn’t it? But sometimes the only way to make a difference is to be the difference, loudly. Another great way is what Brian Michael Bendis calmly tweeted this weekend during the shitstorm of professional industry people throwing insults back and forth: “no semantics. let’s make it simple: it’s never okay to harass any woman. be the best version of yourself and then be better than that.” I couldn’t agree more.
Let's make an attempt, as comicbook fans, to prevent this from happening again. At least within our own domain here at Nightscrawlers.