People say stupid things. They do it all the time. I know, because I’ve done it. I’ve been insenstive or inconsiderate and I’ve been slapped in the face with why what I said was wrong or bothersome. Now, there’ve been a few times (someone trying to lecture me on sexworkers rights when she was actually talking about human trafficking, two very different things) where I’ve stood up and said that these are not things that I’m apologising for. But those things are few and far between. And if you speak in a public forum I don’t think it’s unreasonable for anyone to call you on what you say. It’s their right to say why something bothered them, and expect you to listen. Not to agree with them, necessarily, but to have the respect to listen to your audience and honestly consider what they’re saying.
Something interesting happened today that I want to talk about. This is a very different post than it would have been five hours ago, since I had a sort-of conversation with the person who offended me. Even still, it’s enough of an issue that I wanted to stop and talk about what I was thinking and just why I was offended.
Anyone who reads this blog or follows my twitter will know I’m a huge fan of both Gail Simone and Jimmy Palmiotti. I think they’re two of the best writers in comics today, and I love both of their work. I look at the what they write – character-driven, well-plotted stories – and I just eat it up. Beyond that, Gail is someone I call a friend, and I’m proud to do so. Jimmy… Well, he’s someone I annoy with my constant twittering at him, but I’m sure he’ll manage.
Now, I’m not a huge fan of labels. But when we come down to it, yes I am a feminist. I will say I’m queer before I say I’m bisexual. I’m outspoken, I believe in equality and I think it’s our responsibility to step up and say something and try an educate where we can. Here’s the other thing: I’ve been a sex worker. I like naked women (and men) and I am a sexual person, a sexuality that I own, rather than let me proscribed to me. That doesn’t in any way conflict with being a feminist in my mind. I like what I like, and I make no apologies for that. I’m a woman who’s been into comics since I was 8 years old, and that’s a huge part of my makeup too.
So, consider how I felt, listening to a podcast with Jimmy on it, when I heard one of the questioners ask the following:
Now I got a question for you. I think that everyone here could categorise you as one of those man’s man kinda guys and you said on your show — on your Listening to Jimmy — that you’re a big fan of Gail Simone and that you guys get along real well and she’s kinda a feminist – and a man’s man and feminist, I don’t understand how you guys co-mingle without destroying each other.
First of all, where to start with this? Can I say that Jimmy answered the question with an amazing amount of grace, likely more than I could have ever managed.
I’ve since heard from the questioner that what he was intending was how two people with such divergent viewpoints could be friends. In my opinion it was poorly phrased, poorly worded and a very bad attempt at humour.
Here’s the thing, though, I don’t honestly think Gail and Jimmy have divergent viewpoints.
1) Respect Women – Hells yes. They both do this. In fact, Jimmy has written some of the strongest women I’ve seen in comics, from Painkiller Jane to Time Bomb to Powergirl. Gail, the same. Birds of Prey, Wonder Woman, Scandal Savage or Jeanette from Secret Six. They both write strong, well-developed female characters, and both put females into roles that men would often assume by default.
2) Sexuality – Yes, Jimmy has Happy Mondays (which I love, and please never stop). But Gail has given me Thomas Blake’s (aka Catman) ass more time than I can count, a subtext-charged relationship between Black Canary and Oracle and hell, a lesbian with a stripper girlfriend. On top of that, she’s tweeted that ‘for every drop of rain Jimmy has a topless girl’. Not exactly a statement of derision
3) Sensitivity – I’ll admit this is one area they differ in, but it’s still not drastic. Over and over I’ve seen tweets or heard Jimmy on his podcast saying how he won’t say mean things about people, he won’t beat people up over crap, and that if someone tells him he’s saying something offensive, he’ll at least listen. Now Gail is a bit different in this. She does more to actively find out what people are saying and thinking, and considers what she says. However, I’ve seen her beaten up way more about what she writes than I ever have seen Jimmy. Do the people who are her fans expect more? Perhaps, but it could just be she’s writing to a different (and more sensitive to some of these issues) demographic. But I’ve seen her raked over the coals for things I’d call nothing. But they’re things she’s always treated with respect and patience and she’s a good woman for that. The thing is? I honestly believe if anyone did the same thing to Jimmy, he’d really listen. He’s not out to offend people, and at the core you have two good people who both seem to believe the best in others.
Honestly, to ask that question in that tone, have you ever even read Gail’s twitter, or tumblr, or comics? I mean, really? She is the queen of innuendo, silly jokes, ribald humour. She sneaks as much sex and sexuality into her books as she can get away with.
In the end, that’s why the question pissed me off. Because it implied that to be manly there’s some sort of innate sexism, a sort of sexism that I don’t think exists in either of these people. It used the word feminist as an insult, as a label to someone who wasn’t so cool with the world. Spend a couple minutes listening to Jimmy talk about Amanda, or spend some time reading what Gail writes and you’ll see it doesn’t. On the outside, yes, there’s a difference. These are people who go about things in very different ways, but at the core both have a hell of a lot of respect for other humans.
In the end, there was an apology – though never to me. Sadly, it was after I was told I was making a mountain out of a molehill and ONLY after they realised Gail Simone had actually been bothered by what they said. The apology was also of the ‘well, if you’re offended, that wasn’t my intent’ type. But, I’m happy they listened. It took a lot but they listened.
To me, it just shows a very prevalent attitude that still exists in comics and geekdom. That girls who don’t embrace the boys club 100% are somehow radical, and that the idea of feminism is offensive and to be derided. And that makes me sad.