(This was originally written and posted on August 30, 2014, on my Tumblr, in response to the critique of Karine Charlebois’ redraw of Milo Manara’s now infamous Spider-Woman cover. It’s very “inside-baseball” for those not in the comics world, but still relevant to the idea “Women get to have opinions.”)
A woman wrote this. Yes I’m a woman. And I wrote this. It contains opinions.
Been asked for my opinion (in phone calls and PMs I’ve gotten) and I’ve pointed out that I’ve tried to not comment on ‘the’ cover directly (I’m sure I slipped up somewhere! Gotta be honest, I giggle so hard every time I see it that it’s hard to put a thought together). My entire point, my near-constant argument in life, is that people get to have opinions… and by people, I mean “women”.
Short version: most women are terrified to speak out loud and express an opinion. They are utterly petrified to do so when they are addressing issues of women, sexism and feminism. The internet has emboldened women to speak out more—but it has also enabled men to easily put more effort into silencing them, or threatening them into silence. When I say “terrified” I mean TERRIFIED. All of you were able to grasp how horrible it was when Janelle Assellin wrote about the death and rape threats she gets…none of you seem to get that the constant onslaught of mockery, sneering and general disrespect is equally exhausting. (Do consider, gentlemen: You find a woman daring to criticise a working comics pro or illustrator as “disrespectful”, appalling, etc. but you have utterly no problem with mocking her or her defenders across the internet and starting memes to continue that mocking. She’s not entitled to her opinion…so she’s entitled to YOURS telling her that.) Most women I know fear having that spill into public encounters with these men, and having to work or socialise in now-toxic environments. To that end, I have had many private talks with women genuinely upset with the online discussion about the cover, or the levels of vitriol found in the social media accounts of men, even comics pros, they admire. Thus, they are fearful to engage.
The first argument is, of course, that YOU are equally entitled to your opinion. Yes. My complaint is when you decide that YOUR opinion means that no one else is entitled to THEIRS. You wish them to know that they are not entitled to express it…and if they do, by golly, you’re gonna make them regret it. And if they keep expressing their opinion…you will not once say, “Of course you’re allowed your opinion.” And generally, you WILL not be the one to back off on an argument. In a moment of generosity, some of you may offer the olive branch of “here’s what you’re allowed to say in order to have an opinion.”
There are those who will insist that they are not being sexist at all about the re-draw AND the criticism by others—for “context”, gentlemen, posted on a blog devoted to showing how women COULD be portrayed to be strong, and yes sometimes sexy, superheroes, without being completely sexualised only for the male gaze. NOT for a single moment, a blog devoted to taking down an artist who apparently some regard as being equivalent to some of the greatest artists of the 20th century. (Golly, I AM starting to wonder what y’all think of yourself and your abilities.) But that rings hollow when your initial response (some variation of “it’s completely disrespectful to redraw someone’s work”**) is followed up by yourself or those who talk with you commenting on how the reaction is ONLY from
1) Amateurs. Really? Someone should talk to Charlebois’ employers and tell them to put a stop to her paycheque—whoops! Too late, she’s already done the work.
2) feminazis. Golly, a term that Rush Limbaugh coined because he couldn’t think of any other way to make fun of Hillary Clinton (and other prominent women) than to suggest that an intelligent thinking political woman was a terrifying thing.
3) Women. Women are famously prudes—every man knows that women are terrified of sex. Okay, maybe they’re not terrified of sex…but they hate women (or images of women) who are sexier than they are. Because those images they criticise are obviously sexier than themselves or why would they get upset? If they were hot, they would be perfectly okay. (Once upon a time, the term used would have been “man-haters”, “lesbians” or, the classic, “dykes”.)
4) Those who don’t appreciate “European artists”. This is code for “anyone from North America is a prude who is terrified of nudity or sexuality, except me, because I’m aware of European illustrators.” It’s the comic book version of being a wine snob. This is particularly quick to be used if the speaker is not from North America, or doesn’t have any British heritage. This is taken to be such a given that no one will even argue with the speaker. And generally, men will fling themselves to line up behind the speaker announcing just how long they too, have been aware of European illustrators so everyone knows that they are on the side of right. (I can’t count how many times certain comics creators have offered to show me their work…”Oh, but you’ll be bothered by the nudity.”)***
5). Men who are terrified to let women know that they like to look at images of sexy women. Just saw someone self-importantly intone that men who claim to not like such images are “the new castrati”. Amusing that men are suddenly a homeogenous ‘whole’ entity who will all have exactly the same interests—at least for the purposes of this issue.
6). Feminists. Feminists actually are different than feminazis. In this case, they are all members of that shadowy conspiracy group, The Great Feminist Cabal That Secretly Rules The World and Is Out To Ruin The Lives of All Men. People who don’t like MRAs don’t appreciate that, as the MRAs are quick to point out, THEY are the only ones aware of this vast conspiracy group and its plans to take down all men everywhere. Without them and their blogs, you would still think that women are oppressed and need laws to protect them or give them civil rights.
7). All the OTHER women. This beauty is used by that one girl who “isn’t like all the other girls.” Or it’s used by the man who says, “I have a woman friend who says…” This is code for “woman we like because she proves our point and negates the views of all other women.” Although the opinion of one white man never ever negates the opinions of other white men, the opinions of one member of a (perceived) minority group ALWAYS trumps all other members of that group. (See, for example, Fox News getting that one African American on a show who will confirm all white fears of “the angry black man”. Also? Almost all of Camille Paglia’s career as a self-described “dissident feminist”. aka “not like the other girls”.)
And? Don’t even try the “well we have to counter the criticsm—they just don’t have the skills of the master” bullshit. Context is everything—you haven’t been to Karine Charlebois’ blog and read through it or given it the basic cursory glance to find out the point of her criticism. Once you are able to grasp that one—you’re done. It’s not a fine art review, it’s not a comics review, it’s a feminist critique of how women are portrayed in comics. If someone was criticising how African Americans are portrayed in a comic, on a site devoted to showing how those portrayals could be bettered, you would think twice before jumping in to demand that person have an equal art or writing career to the creators being assessed. In fact, I’m not sure YOU are able to criticise any of these posts or redraws unless you are a feminist woman, or have a background in feminist theory and women’s social history.
Once upon a time, comics creators used to wait eagerly for reviews of their work, negative or positive, to see what others thought of it. They waited for the fans to comment to see how the work was being received. Now, thanks to the Escher Girls site, and Karine Charlebois, comics creators have finally let the world know that no one is allowed to ever post an appraisal unless they have EXACTLY the same skills and/or career and/or body of work of the person they are appraising. Luckily, I don’t have the time to go through any comics creators’ social media accounts to copy/paste all their tv show/movie/music and, yes, even comics opinions.
To those who will try, still, to argue that it’s “disrespectful” to do redraws… Really? Every woman who speaks out loud knows that if she expresses an opinion contrary to that of men, someone will invariably demand that she provide “proof”. Men don’t have to provide proof—their opinion is truth enough. When the women oblige—because if they don’t it’s because they don’t “really” believe it, they’ve just been fooled by feminists into thinking they have to talk like that—their proof is almost without exception universally mocked. Men are chefs…women are cooks. Women are not considered to have the same level of craft or experience of the men in any discussion. Even if the discussion is about the woman herself and a specific experience she had—unless the man has some way of experiencing exactly the same thing, the woman’s opinion is invalid. A woman’s experience is always coloured by emotion; men are the rational ones.
And further to the issue of “disrespect”, the “How dare they do this to Manara” defense. Yep, Milo Manara’s ego is so weak and frail that he will barely survive the trauma of this redraw without you to defend him…
I’m not going to even attempt the “it’s just people looking for the latest controversy” or “wow, it’s so tiresome having women complain about this stuff EVERY SINGLE TIME” or “Wow, ladies, THIS is what you choose to complain about.” Golly, gentlemen—so sorry you’re exhausted having to listen to women talk. That IS difficult, ain’t it?
Finally? It really doesn’t matter what I, or any other woman or feminist man thinks… because golly, y’all are moving that goalpost**** around so much that I’m positively dizzy trying to keep up with where it is now. But, I’m very aware of where I would like to put it…
**Apparently, this rule doesn’t apply if the artwork is by Rob Liefeld, Jim Ballantyne or Randy Queen.
***Pretty sure more than a few people had to delete and retype their comments when they discovered that Charlebois is French-Cdn…for non-Canucks, famously, the “Europeans of Canada”. As someone with a very large contingent of Quebecois relatives, lemme point out that it is almost SOP to dismiss Anglo comments of any sort about any “sexy” or nude image as being Canadian prudery.
****Most of the goalpost-moving arguments are so dumb they don’t really deserve mention. But if I mention them, perhaps no one will even try…
a) So, there’s “he’s an old man and this is what he does” argument. Yeah, no one is arguing that—they’re arguing the final image.
b) My personal favourite is the “What did you expect getting Milo Manara to do a cover?!”—usually followed by some version of typed laughter. Ummm…I’ve checked my bank account and I have definitely NOT authorised any payments to Manara…so I’m pretty sure I didn’t “get” him.
c) You’re not allowed to criticise the artist for doing what he does you have to criticise Marvel for hiring him. And thus,any and all reviews of anything have been completely negated as you can’t criticise anyone for doing the thing they do.