Oh lord. So, how am I NOT supposed to say something about this whole Tony Harris thing? I know, I know, everyone has a right to “be themselves” on the internet. So he can talk all he wants. But, I will exercise my right to be myself on the internet as well by unpacking what’s actually being said by Harris and his buddies.
Some hours ago, comic industry professional Tony “effing” Harris had this to say on his Facebook wall. Inevitably, the predictable response among his fanbase is to tell him that he is the greatest for saying what is on “everyone’s” mind. If you go directly to his wall you can see the comments which are, as always, equally as terrifying as almost anything else you’ll find in your daily cocktail of stupid people and the internet. I’m including the names (with links) of those who commented in case you follow them on twitter or buy their stuff and want to you know… not. Highlights of this commentary include:
“I think before any of these women are allowed to cosplay at cons they should be required to take a written exam on comic books, past and present, followed by a before and after comparison, one in their cosplay outfit and the other NOT in their cosplay outfit but in their normal, average looking boring clothes.
Then again you could just ask them who Jack Kirby was…I imagine they’d all fail”
Don’t you just love this one? Yes! Please! Let me prove myself to you by taking your arbitrary test that will examine my knowledge of mainstream comics! Who is this Mister Kirby? I’ve never heard of him before! So strange! PLEASE MANSPLAIN THESE THINGS TO ME A LITTLE MORE.
“Scuse me Miss, I’m going to need to see some ID, and could you also please tell me the real name of the Silver Surfer.” – Chad ‘isit’ Hindahl
Oh, Geeze… I don’t know…. AND I DO NOT GIVE ANY SHITS.
But seriously, comics are a HUGE industry that overlaps constantly with film, videogames, visual art, fiction and many other productions. There is no test that can be taken on this because we, you and I, have likely not read the same comics. At least, I HOPE we have not read all the same comics. Because where is the fun in that? One of the best things about cons is coming together and learning about comics that are to our personal taste, and the trading of source material that we’ve ideally never heard of. News flash, buddy: not everyone is going to be a BIG Kirby fan or maybe *gasp* they won’t be a fan at all! Just like not everyone is going to dig reading Chaucer or Emily Dickinson. Because taste is relative. You can’t test this shit. And, forgive me for being cheesy, but you can’t test love. And that is what fandom is all about! As Kirby himself once famously said, “comics will break your heart”.
Alright, comment number two!
“What bothers me is that these con girls forget that these comic guys aren’t the nerds Biff Tannen thinks we are. I went to Austin’s comicon last year and ran into a girl I met at a bar in my hometown. I was nice to her in her Black Canary costume, but she treated me like I was Peter Parker post OMD. I shrugged it off. Why? Because she and I both knew she refered to my dick as a member and cried afterwards. So who was really pathetic?” – Joshua Edward West
Ummmm, did you just admit to a girl crying after she had sex with you? Can I tell you a secret? Girls don’t always cry after having sex. I think something might have gone horribly wrong for you and/or for your member? And how do you think writing about this on the internet makes you seem less pathetic?
“You know I don’t mind having good photo reference for my art, I can appreciate them on that level. But I agree the attention whores with daddy issues clogging up booths are fucking annoying. SG has some cute models, now the ones there who actually appreciate the industry please return, the brat sitting there just in hopes of making a few bucks off some sad lonely shut in are wasting space. Seen the dwindling death of artist alley at these cons because of this crap. As a fan I won’t return. As professional I will”
“Another thing that bothers me at a con is the comic book vendor with out a clue, some social retard who mocks the indy comic your searching for because wow some vanilla spandex bullshit we all have read a hundred times sells better then something innovative. Forget content or culture just a circle jerk to sells of mediocre norm. (sorry going off topic there)” – Some guy who goes by “Peter Christian Knudson” on Facebook.
Well, I’m glad that your art won’t suffer because of the increase of women at cons. Oh! You wish that cons would sell things that have content and culture and are more than just “a circle jerk [that] sells [to the] mediocre norm”? God that is too bad that they are not accepting of anything new and interesting!
“Thanks dude, these are things I often think to myself. This confirms that I’m not bitter or crazy or whatever.” - Benjamin Meredith
Nope, not even a little. Not bitter at all. You totally don’t hate women.
Here is one of the worst ones, prepare yourself:
“It frustrates me that the overwhelming majority of show-goers is so focused on the circus of the costuming…..they’re fans of the movies, not the comic books that inspired them, which annoys me.”
“<— grouchy old man who remembers when girls didn’t come to cons”
- Madamic Widmar
*sigh* Oh bother. Do you like the movies? Is there anything even wrong with that? Why does being a fan of film mean you have to read the source material. Have you read every novel that the movies you watch are based on? And as far as the second part: Holy shit dude. Do you know how many lovely normal men you just pissed off? Lets forget for a second about the fact that we as women might want to be there, but do you realize that there are men who LIKE having us at cons? What did not having women there ADD for you? To the experience? That there was one place in society that you didn’t have to put up with us? I just… I just… Oh I don’t understand. Were comic conventions, for you, some mythic bastion of misogyny to which you could take a pilgrimage? Does having women present — women who love comics just as much as you do — really deprive you enjoyment? Really?
I mean, even if we don’t know as much as you we are smart right? So we could like… learn? Well not according to this guy:
“THANK YOU. Somebody finaly had the guts to say it out loud.
What happen is those CHICKS, with the advent of Movie fellas going to teh comicons. They think they will be the next Starlet. But they won´t. They show skin in a pretty sluty way, but you can´t get near. I think trhey are only the CON cheerleaders, they will probably be washing dippers, because they are no brainners.” -Silvio Spotti
Oh… Apparently not. I have no brain! I’ll go back to washing dippers. (Um, whatever those are) Oh God, why am I not smart enough to read and write for a living! If only I was more like you Silvio!
Or more like this optimistic guy!
…. but seriously folks….. I’ve found our little sub-culture to be the most warm and inviting…. least judgemental…. and accepting on the planet. Part of what makes us great is our willingness to take all comers. Becaus we’re the nerds. Because we’re the outcasts. Because we know how it feels not to fit in elsewhere or be cast aside by the “cool”. So to the growing throngs who are all too ready to take offense to this outlook/outcry… just understand that many of these costumed “posers” are the same people who would never give us the time of day outside the convention hall. This is not an issue one needs to take sides on. But for the “good guys” who are conitinuing to finish last within your confines of the once-safe harbors of the ComiCon lifestyle… I say this: Continue loving the past-times that make you fans! Continue turning that fandom into new properties…. and continue watching the “cool kids” try to be just like you. Thank them for their efforts. Shake their hands. Make a new friend. Walk away. Set the next trend. – Matt Slay
Ah, More Mansplaining. Thanks! The fact that YOU as a MAN have found the subculture really warm and inviting is like so comforting to me. Suddenly all those years and years and years and years and years (I’ve been gaming since I was 5 or 6, but only reading comics for the past 5 years or so) of being told that I couldn’t DO or UNDERSTAND things in the nerd community because I was a woman must have been totally imaginary. Or maybe… like these posers… I am a Jock too! That much be it. I am a “cool kid” not a nerd! Oh suddenly my years in academia are coming crushing down on me. I’m cool!? I read these thousands of books for no reason? For such a collective of “those who know how it feels not to fit in,” a lot of you guys sure have a knack for privileging, exclusivity, and bigotry.
Here is the last comment I’ll talk about:
“I’m all for cute girls in skimpy costumes, but that parade of licensed characters starts to look like a long and boring commercial after a while. And eight-tenths of it is a commercial for video games or anime, neither of which I give a good God damn about.”
“It speaks to extremes of fan culture in general. I can appreciate a really great movie or comic book series without wanting to dress up like a drag version of it. There’s a virtue in coming to see the show without needing to be the show.” -Chris Burdick
You know what, I like cute girls too. Which is why I respect their right to wear, and do, whatever the hell they want. I like this comment for two reasons. One, because it works well with the First comment. The idea that, “Hey! We should be testing you to make sure that you like what I like.” But also “Stop liking those things that I DON’T like AND KNOW NOTHING ABOUT” because clearly since this guys knows nothing about video games or anime, they don’t belong at a convention. Not to mention that in a circular messed up way you’re implicitly blaming the rise of fan-culture and the subsequent grouping of comics, tv, film, video games, animation, anime, and other entertainment as SOLELY the fault of women. I know I’m putting words in mouths here, but the idea is that they don’t want you to cosplay the things they know about, but they also don’t really want you to cosplay things they don’t know about either! Each is equally threatening.
The second thing about this comment is the drag comment. What??? What the hell? How does that fit into what you are talking about? You realize there are more male figures to cosplay as than female characters right? Like you could dress up as Batman or Tony Stark? And I am SURE you have thought about this before. I agree personally that for me there is a “virtue of coming to see the show without needing to be the show” because it allows me to sneak around unnoticed, to shop for comics where hopefully no older men stop me to ask me about the location of my boyfriend. But I LOVE EVERYONE who cosplays BECAUSE they ARE the show — or at least a small, dedicated part of it. They become like little celebrities in themselves! Which is just lovely. They are unquestionably one of the attractions of a con. I’ve been to cons with little to no cosplay, and it works, but at those BIG conventions it really adds something special, for those who care. Those who don’t? They can just as easily be tolerant and ignore it, and focus on what brings them there without having to draw such competitive, antagonistic “us vs. them” comparisons.
But seriously ladies, stop liking things. Which brings me to the most problematic part of Tony’s argument. That really, really needs highlighted. It is this:
“… I am so sick and tired of the whole COSPLAY-Chiks. I know a few who are actually pretty cool-and BIG Shocker, love and read Comics. So as in all things, they are the exception to the rule.”
He seems to think that this comment should be his saving grace, but what he doesn’t realize is to me, someone who has a life that revolves around comics, this is the most offensive thing he has said in this whole fiasco.
Because you are talking about women specifically. Obviously. I am lucky to have tons of guy friends who enjoy reading comics, but don’t read as many comics as me, is their anything wrong with this? No! Those guys are not posers! If I have a guy friend who dresses up as Batman for Halloween am I going to come up beside him and be like “ummm so… have you read any Batman comics? If not do you want to see my collection?” *pushes glasses up nose dramatically*. NO!
On his twitter this morning he told @princessology that “then what I wrote HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU” after she told him “and I don’t go to cons to “prey” on boys. I have a boyfriend. Who learned about comics FROM ME.”
Here is the key to your confusion Tony. You say “I know a FEW who are ACTUALLY pretty cool and BIG SHOCKER, love and read comics” which is your problem. You are assuming. You are generalizing that the rest of women just don’t know and therefore you are alienating them from this culture. An alienation I feel alllllllthefuckingtime. And I want it to stop. You saying that those of us who passed your test (and I am SURE I couldn’t pass these tests) are “as in all things … exception to the rule” is NOT MAKING IT ANY BETTER. Am I supposed to feel included? Imagining myself as a “exception.” No. No I will not.
So, if I don’t fit into this category of “exception,” which I probably don’t, then this comment is directed at me:
“you are more pathetic than the REAL Nerds, who YOU secretly think are REALLY PATHETIC. But we are onto you. Some of us are aware that you are ever so average on an everyday basis.”
Firstly, I am totally average on an everyday basis. I think? Are we talking about looks? Is that it? I am only a 5 but I come to a con to be a 10? What about you? On a daily basis separate from your comics, your work. What are YOU? HOW ATTRACTIVE ARE YOU? Are you a 10? What about at a Con? Are you … an 11? Secondly, I don’t think that all my friends, family and coworkers (almost all of whom I consider nerds) are pathetic at all. Nor do I think that everyone I’ve ever slept with (who I would also consider nerds) are pathetic either. So, in this one case, I would like you to know that you are just wrong. And I can’t speak for every single girl who walks onto the Con floor (and neither should you), but I bet you are wrong about them as well.
Lastly, throughout the whole rant you shit on nerdy guys too!
“a LOT of average Comic Book Fans who either RARELY speak to, or NEVER speak to girls. Some Virgins, ALL unconfident when it comes to girls, and the ONE thing they all have in common? The are being preyed on by YOU.”
I don’t think I have to highlight all the ways this isn’t true. I don’t really even know what to say about how horrible this is, that a man wants too keep perpetuating the weak impotent nerd stereotype.
I just want to end these thoughts with one more quote and then I will conclude. In his conclusion Tony says emphatically “Lying, Liar Face. Yer not Comics.”
Yer. Not. Comics. Never forget those words ladies. Never.
It would take a whole other blog post to illustrate my many experiences at cons, in shops, at sales that made me feel horribly uncomfortable. I don’t even care about wanting to feel wanted. I just want to feel comfortable. Is that too much to ask? Once a friend and I had a seller ask us “how much money our boyfriends had given us to spend that day,” even though hilariously our boyfriends were wandering around bored out of their minds because they were sick of shopping for comics. Another time, at FanExpo, I was asked countless times while digging through the bins “where is your boyfriend?” or the much worse “are you trying to help your boyfriend find something, can I help you?” which, because I am lucky to have great boyfriends, I can usually reply “No thanks, actually he is helping me look for something and we don’t need your help.”
Obviously part of the fun of cosplaying (as many will tell you) is research! Finding different interpretations of the costume you are making and getting to know the character you want to inhabit. You are just not going to find people who know fucking nothing about the things they are Cosplaying. I’m sorry, you wont. They likely will not have an encyclopedic knowledge of everything you like, or likely even of the character they are dressing as AND THAT IS TOTALLY OKAY BECAUSE THEY ARE JUST HAVING A GOOD TIME.
Tony recently posted that what bothers him about the attention more than anything is people calling him a misogynist when really he was just talking about posers or hipsters or whatever. But here he defends himself hilariously enough by saying that he doesn’t draw naked pictures of women.
“I do not portray or Objectify half naked women in my work. I never have. I have always been VERY vocal about my dislike of that practice, and that my view is and has been that T&A in comics is a Pox. If you wanna come at me with accusations of Misogyny and sexism, youll be wrong. I think there are several Hundred “PRos” I could rattle off that are doing a fine job of perpetuating that crap without ANY help from me”
GIVE ME A BREAK. I WOULD LOVE IF YOU DREW NAKED CHICKS! I love drawings of naked chicks more than anyone else I know! Terry Moore draws pictures of naked chicks all the time and that guy is like my fucking hero! Alan Moore? Also loves drawings of naked girls especially when they are done by his incredibly talented wife Melinda Gebbie! Jess Fink, she draws a mean naked girl! Hell, I even like naked girls drawn by Robert Crumb even though a lot of the time they are fucking offensive. Because he KNOWS they are offensive, and he ADMITS his insecurities with women.
Don’t you see your problem is you can’t tell the difference between sexuality, and sexism! You don’t know the difference between an offensive naked woman and a non offensive naked woman. You don’t understand that OBJECTIFICATION is actually what YOU are doing through perpetuating these sexist ideas surrounding the female body. You can portray women as naked without objectifying them! Did you know that? Do you see? No… you don’t see. And THAT is your problem. You’d rather imply that a women (naked or otherwise) is, full stop, an offensive image.
ps Anyone looking for another perspective on this can check out the guys over at Bleeding Cool.
Also, the idea for the title for this article was totally from the very cool Jennifer de Guzman. You should follow her on Twitter.