What Janelle Asselin Wrote, And Why It Bothered Me

I actually fully support Janelle Asselin. So, I apologize for the clickbait title, but I wanted to make sure you read this. This is important to me, and should be to you as well.

Earlier today Twitter exploded with unpleasantness after Janelle Asselin posted this piece, Let’s talk about how some men talk to women in comics, on her Tumblr account. The piece bothered me, not because of what it said, but because it needed to be said at all in 2014. This is not the first time that a female in the comic industry has posted or tweeted about sexual harassment, and unfortunately, if the reactions to it are an indicator, it won’t be the last.

Her piece was a response to some of the reactions she saw in reference to an earlier piece she had written for Comic Book Resources. That piece, Anatomy of a Bad Cover: DC’s New “Teen Titans” #1, was a critique of the cover mentioned in the title, and a major part of her criticism was of the fact that teenage superheroine Wonder Girl was drawn with insanely, impossibly huge breasts. The sexualization of a teenage girl irked her, and many others I’m sure. Yes, this happens all the time in comics, women are drawn as sexy as possible, in skimpy outfits and anatomically improbable poses, and it has caused controversy before, but this piece, and the negative reactions to it, inspired me to write.

Since the CBR piece went up on Friday, Janelle has received plenty of support, from fans and pros alike, but she has also received rape threats. RAPE. THREATS. Many people disagreed with her, including a notable comic professional, which is fine, we don’t all have to agree with each other about every little thing, but disagreeing is a far cry from threatening to rape someone.

So please, internet, tell me again how sexism doesn’t exist in comics. I have seen many people attempt to deny its existence, but I have seen it first hand, at conventions, comic shops, and other places where fans assemble. And it needs to stop. I know there may be times where the harassment is unintentional, the failings of an awkward fanboy, but 99 percent of the time it is not only intentional, but institutional.

Janelle wrote, “There are too many people, including professionals, who think it’s okay to condescend, harass, berate, etc. women in comics simply because they’ve espoused a belief that revolves around women being treated more as equals. I want women and girls to be seen as an equally promising demographic for comics as males; I want major companies with an easy opportunity to reach out to women to not feature art that is disgusting and objectifying; I want women to be hired as much as men to create comics; I want to not know so many people who have been violated in an industry I still love despite it all.”

I love this industry too, and I want those things as well. And I write this because, as a man, I’m partially at fault. Every time I don’t speak up and call out other men for their awful behavior, I’m being just as bad as them. The only way this sexism and harassment has any chance of going the way of the Comics Code is if we bring it out into the open. It’s scary to speak up against your fellow men, and the backlash can be severe, but it needs to start happening. Rape threats are not okay. Ever. Photographing cosplayers asses without their consent or attempting to grope them on the convention floor is not okay. Ever. Demanding sexual favors in return for a job is not okay. Ever. There is no such thing as a fake geek girl, so drop it.

It is time that we put a stop to this behavior. It is time we stop sitting idly by, watching it happen. It is time that every fan, male or female, can enjoy their fandom without worrying. It’s time that women like Janelle Asselin stop being harassed for talking about harassment. It is most definitely time for Janelle and others like her to not have to write pieces like this. Even our very own Lady Victoria Irwin wrote a piece on her own harassment as a cosplayer. This has to stop.

It won’t happen over night, but we can stop harassment when we see it, and eventually stop it entirely. I stand with Janelle, Victoria, and the countless other women who have dealt first hand with harassment in this industry, and others, and I say no more. Please stand with me. Let’s make our industry fun, and safe, for everyone’s enjoyment.

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