Vincent S. Moore Presents:
Help! Help! Here Come The Fangirls!!
Was it something I said?
Given the response in some quarters, I imagine so.
For those just tuning in this week, last week’s column was a charming little piece where I actually had the audacity to suggest other ways of pursuing their stated goal of equality to the feminist fangirl community, focusing on the classic book on success, How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
I guess I didn’t really win any new friends and only influenced a couple of people to rant and rave at poor little me.
I guess I should feel ashamed of myself for sticking my nose in business definitely not my own.
I probably should.
But I don’t.
Besides, what’s the fun in that? Just giving up and admitting defeat and drinking the Kool-Aid with the rest or prepare to be placed on the magic list of They Who Will Not Bend To The Wills Of The She's Who Must Be Obeyed for the rest of my comics career? That’s not really my style; I’m too stubborn for my own good sometimes, I suppose.
So this week I will take some time to rebut the couple of blog postings I found, courtesy of When Fangirls Attack and other sources, just for the fun of it.
To start off, I’d like to publicly thank James Meeley for his kind emails, pointing out that my efforts were doomed to failure from the start and my intentions wouldn’t “fucking matter” to borrow from the quote James mentioned from the lovely ladies that run WFA. Yes, I agree it is very difficult to have a dialogue with anyone who simply doesn’t want to debate or look over facts or see any other point of view that contradicts their own. However not wanting to try is far worse than trying and failing miserably.
And so, here I go, trying again.
First up is a lovely post entitled “Now listen to the nice men, you silly little women” by KadyMae/Katherine Keller, contributor to Sequential Tart, from her blog:
“I just love it when some self appointed messiah comes along to lead all us women to the promised land.”
Yeah, because it worked so well to win us the vote.
Yeah, because it was listening to whitey and doing it whitey's way and being nice and quiet and never ever causing a disturbance at all, that got the Civil Rights Movement roaring into action.
It is true that civil disobedience has been a successful tool in fostering change in these United States as well as other places around the world. So have economic pressures, like the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the lunch counter sit-ins. I made a suggestion of similar economic tactics, such as forming comics buying clubs and effectively invading comics shops to show there is a large female consumer base for superhero comics. In order to show Marvel, DC, and other publishers, as well as retailers that there is a growing female audience. Did you see that part, Kadymae? I’m thinking not.
“It's only been the past 18 months that there's been a really loud up swell of feminism in the comics blogsosphere.”
Change does not happen overnight. It takes decades, centuries even, to change cultural programming. But, as a great philosopher once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”
Again, this is very true. No way to argue against this point. Yet, with Mr. Carnegie’s words and concepts on my mind, I wondered exactly what was being offered to companies like Marvel and DC in exchange for their efforts to match the exacting standards being set forth by this very vocal community of fangirls.
In other words, many of us comics readers know that the comics shops based part of the overall industry is still struggling. Readership is shrinking as the bulk of the consumer base is aging. Newer readers are not showing up, preferring instead to read manga that can be found at the nearest chain bookstore and online for purchase or for free.
As I asked, what is in it for Marvel and DC to change how they treat their female characters? Businesses don’t change for altruistic reasons, they change for economic ones.
Are we to assume (I say this knowing what kinds of trouble that word will get me into; that’s okay, just look at what I have to say below on that front) that if the Big Two were to shift and accede to the pressures being brought by sites like Girl-Wonder and When Fangirls Attack, then there would suddenly magically appear this massive female readership just out there waiting for female friendly superhero comics?
Earlier this year, Johanna Draper Carlson pointed out here [http://comicsworthreading.com/2007/05/09/superhero-comics-arent-for-girls/] that, for the most part, superhero comics aren’t really for girls. That the genre is geared more towards the interests of boys. And that those girls who do read superhero comics are special. For stating a truth, she was roasted over the coals for days.
But the fact remains that as long as the number of women who read superhero comics is a small percentage of the total readership, then there isn’t any value in changing the books to reach for a group that isn’t buying books. Just as it would make no economic sense for either Marvel or DC to sudden decide to turn half of their respective publishing outputs into books geared towards a black readership who aren’t going to the local comics shop.
Change takes as long as one wants to spend on the change itself. It can be fast or slow. It can be cooperated with or fought against. The tactics of complaint, in my opinion, make sure that change will be slow and painful for everyone. If that’s the way you want it, you can have it by all means.
On second thought, the tactics of complaint may be the proper tool. After all, one could say that it was the tactics of complaint which brought civilization to the point Feminism could even exist after all.
“In other words, O Great, August, and Most Enlightened Teacher, we're mad as hell and we're not going to play nice and color inside the lines all the time any more, and if you think I'm going to listen to your incredibly condescending essay and choose only the tone and voice that you want to hear me use -- the tone and voice that the white male patriarchy has a grand tradition of tuning out?”
If you and your fellow feminist fangirls and fanboys are as mad as hell, you have every right to be. I never said anything against that. What I did say was that, as long as this movement, community, whatever the hell it is goes about the pursuit of its goals in the manner that it is, then it will be a long journey.
My suggestions and suggested reading were merely efforts to point out that there just might be a better or more efficient way. See, I like to do that, share information. Most people who do know me (I do have some friends on my payroll) know that is one of my characteristics, of looking at and finding ways to apply new ideas.
“And FYI, I am quite capable of a using exactly the kind of voice and tactics you talk about, when I think it's the best tool for the venue and task at hand.”
And guess what? It's not a magic wand, producing instant change, either.
I followed the link that was here and read your article/letter to Dan DiDio and what I took away from the piece was how you explain the importance of Stephanie Brown to yourself and other women comics readers. How his explanations for the lack of a memorial were logically inconsistent, based on a statement of how to deny women’s art from Ms. Russ. How your only interest in reading the Batbooks at the time was because of Steph which faded after she was gone. How the lack of a memorial seems to reveal some buried antifeminist streak in Mr. DiDio, since it appears to say that a female character who once dressed as an iconic hero wasn’t and isn’t important in the grand scheme of things. And how every and anything Dan DiDio does in regards to Stephanie Brown and her memory is a slap in the face to all those women fans.
That’s at least how I reacted to it. I could be wrong.
But what gets me is that you vent your spleen at Dan DiDio and never once say why recognizing Stephanie Brown is important to him from a business perspective. Or what benefit could be gained for his company if he does make sure to have a memorial for the girl Robin. You only assume that if DiDio wants more female readers it would be in his best interest to honor Stephanie Brown the fourth Robin, if he knows what’s good for him.
And this is your idea of the best tool available.
And I guess it escapes you that DiDio went from being uncertain how to answer the question of the memorial when you asked him at Wonder Con to having a definite answer as to why there would be no memorial at Wizard World LA.
Could it be because his response to the criticism was to dig in and hold his position?
That would make me think. I don’t know about you, though, and I won’t even presume to do so.
Now, I initially entertained the idea of dealing with the dogpiling (thanks, Dirk!) of comments accompanying KadyMae’s post individually. I decided against it because for the most part the comments boiled down to my being an idiot or a tool or a fool or a mouthpiece for The Man, et cetera, et cetera.
I will have you folks out there know I am not an idiot or a tool.
I am an ass, with or without the hole, thank you very much. And please feel free to refer to me as such in the future. At least you folks would be calling me by a name I understand.
Name calling -- that classic weapon of the school yard -- works best when you can get your opponent to cry or feel wounded when his self-concept has been attacked by the names you call him. My idea of myself is pretty secure for the most part. So the old sticks and stones adage applies. And I’m pretty good with a stick or a stone too, so don’t get any ideas.
Oh, wait a minute, I forgot I’m living in the Age of Narcissism. It doesn’t matter if I respond to the name calling. It only matters that someone somewhere out there in the ether felt a moment’s worth of power by calling me out of my name. Ah, what a brave new world it is, ain’t it?
Next up is “I have a suffragette here with your name on her shanks, you poor deluded fellow!” by David Alexander McDonald (Steven E. McDonald).
Wow, such a provocative title. Not wanting to resist a chance to act like the ass I am, I have to say this: If there is a suffragette out there with my name on her ass, doesn’t that mean she belongs to me? Like a piece of meat? Not a good way to start what looks like a pro-feminist, anti-Vince diatribe.
Anyway, here we go:
“Vincent S. Moore’s got a solution for female issues with comics. Basically, it's ‘sit down, shut up, play with your dolls and purses, and be good girls while we Men handle the funnybooks’. He uses the phrase "feminist fangirls" with about the same implication and attitude that Rush Limbaugh refers to dem uppity wimmenz as "feminazis" and rambles a great deal on the way through.”
Okay, there’s a lot to deal with here.
First off, David and/or Steven, I never at any point in time tell any of the fangirls to “sit down, shut up, play with your dolls and purses, and be good girls while we Men handle the funnybooks.” Most of what I said was my opinion, backed up with ideas from Dale Carnegie, that the tactics of complaint may not be the best tool to be used to achieve the fangirls’ goals. When I sold comics, I lived for those times when a woman of any age would enter the store. Because I love comics -- the medium, not just the superhero genre -- so much that I think they are something everyone should be reading. I still feel that way. It warmed my heart to see all of the different kinds of folks wandering around during this year’s Comic-Con International: San Diego, especially to see more women than I’ve ever noticed in the past.
What I talked about was opening up the bag of tricks a little. Silly me, I guess. What I’m being told in the responses is “shut up, you silly, silly man, what do you know anyway?” How dare I have any kind of opinion concerning issues to deal with women? I should be sitting patiently by waiting to learn in what ways I continue to oppress and degrade women. Because I’m a man and that makes me bad from birth -- not mention being a black man which makes me really, really bad -- but I can be saved by the Gospel According To Feminism. Hallelujah, hallelujah, all praise be to Virginia Woolf and Gloria Steinem.
As for the rambling style, well, I ain’t a great writer by any stretch of the imagination. Part of the fun of writing this column is to work on my writing muscles as well as to think out loud in public. In time, I’m sure I will match the incredibly high standards of writing set by the blogsosphere in general.
With the feminist fangirls thing, that’s a term by which I often read the group in question refer to themselves. I even said at the end of the last column I knew I was being blatantly generalist with my usage of the term. I wasn’t interested in calling anyone particular out by name; my aim was much wider. And even though I am no fan of Rush Limbaugh by any means, his pet name of feminazi merely suggests he believes there is a link between the approaches of feminists and Nazis. Do I agree with it? I don’t know. I mean, the reactions to last week’s column so far do follow a “if you won’t go along with the party line, then you are a fool and will be punished in public” logic.
Maybe that’s just my Black Man senses tingling.
I surely don’t want anyone to think the way I think. (Man, there’s a scary thought!) But I’m no fan of lock step thinking. I haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid yet and ain’t gonna.
“He totally misses the point that there are a hell of a lot of men out there with concerns about the depiction of women in comics, and a lot of men who are concerned with connecting with a female audience. He sails right on by the point that many comics publishers, including DC and Marvel, have been trying to come up with ways of connecting to a more and more available female market (hence the scramble to fix Supergirl, hence the creation of Minx, hence Marvel trying to keep a host of female characters going, and then we jump into other companies where the effort is much more distinctive, such as SLG.) He even misses the point that while Dan DiDio has this stubborn-as-a-possum thing going over the issue of Stephanie Brown, he was the one (misguided though the attempt was for a couple of years) prompting the effort to create a female-friendly book in Supergirl (unfortunately it was very badly thought through; he really should have gone with my Manga pitch.)”
To be quite honest, I don’t think I know many of these feminist fanboys personally. I’m pretty sure that a few times I did mention them along with the feminist fangirls.
And yes, Marvel and DC are trying different ways of attracting a new female audience. Ways that definitely should be supported by those who want to see those ways succeed.
But most of what I see on Girl-Wonder and When Fangirls Attack are just that: the attacks, the complaints, the moaning and bitching.
It’s all Bad Cop.
Where’s the Good Cop?
As for sailing over the good that some publishers are doing, my primary point wasn’t to talk about that. It was to talk about different tactics that could be used by the feminist fangirls and fanboys.
Although I do appreciate the balls you have to mention that while DC’s attempts to “fix” Supergirl aren’t as well thought through as you would have liked, your manga based pitch probably would have done the trick. I have to admire that. For that, you get a cookie. Please see the lady at the front desk.
“The raised voices of fangirls and fanboys do make a difference.”
So do their dollars. So do voices speaking well, making sense, and not attacking those being spoken to. Again, all I see is the Bad Cop with no Good Cop.
“Those voices have, amongst other things, brought Manhunter back from the dead twice, they've helped to trigger the effort to get Supergirl actually on track (unfortunately DC are now fucking up Mary Marvel, but there may yet be a point to that), they've caused numerous differences, many minor, but the voices are heard. We may yet get that Stephanie Brown memorial -- hey, if the Bat-office wants a hell of a story on that subject, let me know. I'll conjure tears from granite.”
Yes, it does look as though victory is at hand. Although, if DC’s fortunes change any time soon, I would bet that many of those changes will go away.
I would hope that wouldn’t happen, but at the end of the day, it’s all about making money for a publisher. If there’s an audience for it, the books will be there. While Manhunter has been saved by those raised voices, those same voices working to raise the sales on the book would have a deeper impact.
“The bottom line, frankly...if the fangirl chorus is supposed to sit down, shut up, and behave, then so should we all, because most comics fans have something critical to say sooner or later, and editors and publishers and writers and artists often depend on those comments, even when cutting, to do better work, to learn from mistake, to course correct (yes, I know there are those who just blow up at the mildest complaint, and others who don't give a damn) and if one segment of critical fandom needs to be silent, then gag us all.”
Again, I never said for anyone to be quiet. What it looks like to me is a failure to communicate. I guess my questioning of the success rate of the tactics of complaint got interpreted to mean I want the voices, the feminist comics fans’ voices stilled.
We are speaking the same language here, right?
I’m not a great master of words but I would that I’m clear in my points. Hey, Marc, why don’t you tell me when I mess up or sound like an ass? I mean beyond the way I normally sound like an ass. Oh, yeah, that’s right. Because I’ve been turning these columns in at the last minute. Oops!
It’s time to dig out my old copy of English The Easy Way and Writing The Easy Way and get to work, huh?
Seriously, David and/or Steven (I can’t tell which), I know all too well the connection between the fans and the creators. One of my other jobs is editor and I do occasionally go through the emails. And many creators and editors were once fans themselves. My point, and since I’m an editor I do take this personally, is that no one will get very far with me if their attitude is hostile or belligerent. I assume other creators and editors feel the same way at heart. If you just spent forty to a hundred hours a week working on comics, just to read someone’s rant on how badly you screwed the pooch or that you’re just a sexist pig for whatever you’ve done to or not done to your female characters, then it’s possible that your reaction to such things would be to ignore them and to even purposely infuriate such people with your next project.
Once more with the metaphor: Bad Cop, Good Cop. There’s a nice balance there and I don’t often see that balance represented in the daily rantings and ravings of the feminist comics fan blogsosphere.
Maybe it does work. Maybe it doesn’t. By sharing some classic information, my overall goal (besides getting people to read my column, naturally; it wasn’t stupidity that inspired this whole thing) was to open the situation up to different kinds of dialogue. As funny as I often find it to be when I’m killing time, some times reading Girl-Wonder and When Fangirls Attack and others is just plain tiring.
“Just one problem with that thought: I'm not going to be gagged. I don't know anyone who will be.”
Then you shouldn’t want me to be gagged either, even if I don’t agree with your viewpoint. In fact, especially if I don’t agree with your viewpoint.
Talk all you want. As long as some talking does get done and it’s not all railing and ranting and raving. The Boy Who Cried Wolf ultimately was eaten because he played the game for so long the village ended up ignoring him.
Finally, Zhinxy. Ah, Zhinxy, you got me there. Your version of my comments could have been on KadyMae’s blog were classic zingers. And the parody of my column was downright funny. I laughed and laughed. I thought it was so funny, here, everybody, go take a read for yourselves [http://everyissueever.blogspot.com/2007/10/lorem-ipsum-by-zhinxy-or-this-fangirl.html] and have a laugh at my expense. Dress For Success, ha! I remember that book, although Clothes And The Man is a better one.
I said last week that I usually hit the blogsosphere for laughs when I need a break from work. I find it amusing for the most part to read items linkblogged to When Fangirls Attack. Because I’m on the outside looking really. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say the superheroines of all colors outnumber and are better featured these days than black superheroes. Black Panther is still going, Cage is in the Avengers, but Firestorm is gone for the time being, and there are three black members in the JLA. I can’t think of what other books there are out in the marketplace feature prominent black superheroes. Although I’m sure some of you readers will hip me to them soon enough.
I know the comics industry has some growing up to do. I think it can treat characters of all types better, yes, even the white guys. Because there are many people out there who are eating up superhero and other comics based movies. We just have to figure out how to get them to buy what we have to sell. Some of that will be by providing product that appeals to different tastes. Some will be by doing those stories that only comics can do well.
And in the end, that is what is most important.
Doing what comics can.
See y’all next week.
Copyright 2006- 2010 Marc Mason/Comics Waiting Room. All rights reserved