Woman criticizes comic book cover. Rape threats follow.

Yesterday, I linked to this post by former DC editor Janelle Asselin focusing on the cover for the first issue of the relaunched Teen Titans.
teen-titans-1-c63faHer criticisms include:
•Wonder Girl’s boobs are about the size of her head. Clearly not natural. And for someone whose physically active, the top ain’t going to keep them covered. And she is, after all, a 16-year-old girl.
•The cover layout doesn’t make the Titans look like a team, and makes it unclear who they are, how they relate or even that Raven’s a woman.
•Given that the Teen Titans TV show had and still has a large female fandom, the cover of a relaunch ought to connect with some of those fans, instead of which it’s likely a turn-off.
All of which seems reasonable to me. But unsurprisingly, somewhere in Internet geekdom, this was taken as a hideous attack on all that was good, so the inevitable response was Asselin receiving rape threats online.
Amanda Marcotte wonders why comics geeks are freaking out? Is there anything in their view of comics that would be spoiled by having WG with smaller breasts? Can’t they just get their big-breast fix elsewhere? Her conclusion: the mere fact the issue is raised makes some guys feel less secure in the superiority they assume their Y chromosome gives them.
Dr. Nerdlove points out that this is basically insane: No matter what the rationalization, threatening someone with rape because they don’t like the way Wonder Girl is drawn is just wrong (threatening someone with rape period is wrong). And no, it’s not just part of the trash talk that gets thrown about online because men don’t get that treatment, even writing about the same issues.
His theory: Some geeks love the image of themselves as Clark Kents (persecuted, mocked, yet superior though nobody knows) too much to tolerate criticism that implies geekdom isn’t quite as cool. Which would make sense, I think: Pretty much every community reacts with hostility to criticism from anyone considered an outsider (churches, the military, businesses, doctors, etc.). Only it still doesn’t justify rape threats (and no, I’m not going to have a startling twist in my logic further down. Nothing justifies rape threats).
And for some people, he suggests, sexual harassment is just part of the fun of being a gamer/comics fan/nerd.
Any of these may be true, or true for a particular harasser. Another factor is that some guys simply prefer existing in an all-male community, or one where women are only allowed, rather than by right. Maybe they enjoy the atmosphere more. Or they may define their manhood, as many people do, by the fact they’re doing guy stuff—stuff women don’t do or participate in. When women move in to the community, it’s no longer a guy thing, so how do you prove your male bonafides then?
And of course, none of this is unique to geeks, or to any community. Like I said, every organized group seems to flinch from discussing this sort of thing. So maybe there’s no defining lesson to be drawn, other than sexual harassment is common everywhere (female political bloggers get hit with threats too).
But that’s also irrelevant. Because rape threats and sexual harassment are wrong, period (and if men were getting rape threats, those would be wrong, too). Belittling someone because of their gender (or race, religion, nationaliy etc.) is wrong. Whatever the reason, whatever the motivation, whichever community, they’re wrong. And there is no excuse.
(Cover by Kenneth Rocafort. All rights with current holder)

7 Comments

Filed under Comics, Politics, Undead sexist cliches

7 responses to “Woman criticizes comic book cover. Rape threats follow.

  1. Alison J. McKenzie

    “Because rape threats and sexual harassment are wrong, period (and if men were getting rape threats, those would be wrong, too). Belittling someone because of their gender (or race, religion, nationaliy etc.) is wrong. Whatever the reason, whatever the motivation, whichever community, they’re wrong. And there is no excuse.”

    This. Well said.

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