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So, to say that my post from earlier this week has blown up would be a bit of an understatement, I think…
I’ve been blown away by the amount of support I’ve gotten from the comics community. This sort of thing (the condescension, rudeness, personal attacks, and rape threats) happens to my female friends all the time, as I mentioned before, so I thought I’d get a few “oh yeah, I hate when that happens…” and that would be that.
Instead, many, many people I know and don’t know have contacted me in various ways to let me know that they are sorry people are awful and that they care about making this community (or their related communities like gaming) a better place. I cannot express to all of you how much that means to me.
I wanted to add a couple “quick” (oh come on I realize I’m actually incapable of that) points/clarifications in the midst of everything going on that I think are important to keep in mind as (hopefully) this conversation continues:
1. Not only am I not alone in receiving rape threats, I’m by FAR on the receiving end of probably the least amount of many of my friends. I have friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. who have lived with rape and death threats for years now - some have lived with them for decades. Some have had their children threatened. Some have had their home address shared. Some have been stalked in person. And of course, some have actually been raped. As lovely as the support for my situation has been, I would appreciate it if we started to turn the conversation more towards the fact that this is something that women in the public eye live with all. the. time. That is not okay.
2. On a related note, a lot of men hear about this and say “where is this happening? I’ve never seen rape threats online!” You can see a few comments like that here in the comments on my friend and editor Andy Khouri’s piece at comicsalliance (it’s an excellent piece and well worth reading if you haven’t already). Here’s the thing - these dudes don’t often threaten rape where they know other people can see it. They do it in asks on Tumblr and PMs on message boards and yes, occasionally in tweets with their anonymous, fake twitter names. The ones that came to me came in through my Google docs survey which is purposefully an anonymous survey (to protect the victims of sexual harassment who want to respond).
So maybe you want to know what you can do or why it matters that these dudes are sending threats. Maybe you think they’re just threats so why worry too much about them?
There’s this piece I often refer to (and often hear referred to by other women) that apparently started as a comment on a Penny Arcade blog (you can find it here). To quote the particularly relevant parts:
Virtually all rapists genuinely believe that all men rape, and other men just keep it hushed up better. And more, these people who really are rapists are constantly reaffirmed in their belief about the rest of mankind being rapists like them by things like rape jokes, that dismiss and normalize the idea of rape.
If one in twenty guys (or more) is a real and true rapist, and you have any amount of social activity with other guys like yourself, then it is almost a statistical certainty that one time hanging out with friends and their friends, playing Halo with a bunch of guys online, in a WoW guild, in a pick-up game of basketball, at a bar, or elsewhere, you were talking to a rapist. Not your fault. You can’t tell a rapist apart any better than anyone else can. It’s not like they announce themselves.
But, here’s the thing. It’s very likely that in some of these interactions with these guys, at some point or another, someone told a rape joke. You, decent guy that you are, understood that they didn’t mean it, and it was just a joke. And so you laughed.
Or maybe you didn’t laugh. Maybe it just wasn’t a very funny joke. So maybe you just didn’t say anything at all.
And, decent guy who would never condone rape, who would step in and stop rape if he saw it, who understands that rape is awful and wrong and bad, when you laughed? When you were silent?
That rapist who was in the group with you, that rapist thought that you were on his side. That rapist knew that you were a rapist like him. And he felt validated, and he felt he was among his comrades.
So, maybe you’ve never seen someone make a rape threat. Maybe you think you don’t know any rapists. But you do. I do. I mean, I know who at least a handful are, but I also assume that there are other men I’ve met who are rapists. Statistically, it’s a probability. And if most of the women I know are receiving rape threats, some of them are even receiving hundreds of threats, well, it’s statistically a probability that some of those men are actual rapists.
You might not be able to catch these shitheads in the act of making a rape threat but you CAN create a culture where rape is not just a thing that happens to women and rape threats are not an appropriate reaction to anything, much less a review of a comic cover. You can lead by example. You can choose to not rape women and instead to treat us as equals.
3. This is not related to the last point entirely, but I do think that there are some dudes engaged in this whole conversation who maybe need to do some soul searching about why they take this situation and the general existence of rape threats more seriously when it’s being brought up by a man. I want to think the best of people, really I do, but there are definitely men who just don’t hear women when they bring up these issues but want to rush in to talk about it after a man brings it up. If you recognize this in yourself, it might be worth considering why that is and also trying to sort out if there are other areas in which you are dismissive of women.
In general, that’s been a consistent theme of the last 5 days for me - men (and even some women) being dismissive of my thoughts, feelings, experiences, and qualifications entirely because I’m a woman. The people doing this are not just the assholes who think it’s okay to send someone a rape threat. They are people you know. I’m sure many of them would scoff at the idea that they’re doing this because I’m a woman, but to deny that is completely ridiculous. I know how dudes in comics are treated. I know how torn apart they get about stuff like plotlines in super hero comics. It’s not good. But it’s nothing like the way I was treated in this situation and it’s nothing like how I see women in comics treated every day. It’s not just the rapists or the rape-threatists. The problem with how men treat women in comics is bigger than that, and just like the problem with the rape threats, I don’t think it should be something women alone are dealing with and trying to fix.