An Open Letter to Comic Book Fans

Hello, hello. I’d ask how you are, but you’re probably fine. Better than fine. You’re seeing your favorite characters come to the screen, be it in TV or movies, and you’re pumped. It’s a good thing. Even if they don’t always get the characters right (and they don’t), these are still characters you grew up idolizing and now there’s a face to them.

That’s exciting.

I am one of you – though I’d never truly identified as one, not till today. The reasons for that are varied, and I will go into them later, but for now I have to say that I grew up reading comics. X-Men, mostly, Marvel over DC, certainly, but anything I could get my hands on – anything my dad, or my cousin – the ones who introduced me to the genre, would see fit to present me, I’d devour.

Yes, I was that kid – a weird kid. I never liked soap operas (maybe because my mom never let me watch them), and I got all my drama from books – and comics. And we can’t say there wasn’t drama. Oh, there was. So much. Insane drama. Absurd drama. The type of drama Days of Our Lives can’t even fathom.

Except, it wasn’t the type of drama that was looked down on – because it was for boys.

And in this macho-driven culture we live in, drama is only acceptable when it’s not aimed at girls.

I wonder who decided that comic books were just for boys. Probably the same people who decided Barbies and tea sets were just for girls and even the very cool water pistol I wanted for my eight birthday was frowned upon because I was a girl.

Thankfully my parents were never one of those people. In a way that was a blessing, but it was also a curse, because not only did I get my water pistol and my boxing lessons, I also grew up thinking that it was okay to like what you like, that your preferences weren’t dictated by your gender.

Of course, then reality intruded.

See, while you’re a girl, liking comics is still considered, well …cute. I mean, it’s a boys thing, but look at the tomboy, haha, she’ll grow out of it. When you’re an adult (or when your breasts develop, I’m not sure of what the criteria is), liking things that are just for boys becomes frowned upon.

And hey, if it were just frowned upon, something you do that people don’t like but they let you do in peace, I might not even be writing this piece. Except the comic book fandom, be it actual comics, TV and/or movies seems to breed the kind of toxic masculinity that makes women not just feel unwelcome and awkward, but that actually encourages harassment and hate.

This is especially absurd when you take into account how many strong female characters there are in comics, from the Black Canary Arrow failed to replicate, to the Wonder Woman we hope the movies do justice, to the Rogue that the X-Men movies slaughtered.

If there’s a medium that celebrates the strong, independent, kick-ass women, it’s comics.

Tell that to some of its fans, though.

As always, it must be stated that generalizations are an awful thing, and they’re always, always (see what I did there?) wrong. I’ve met many wonderful guys who’ve enjoyed my comic-book loving/sports obsessed self.

But I’ve met more who haven’t. Many more. I’ve met the ones that get snippy when you know more than them, or the ones that take a difference in opinion as the ultimate proof that you aren’t a “real” fan, a concept they themselves invented and apply almost exclusively to women and anyone who dares defend them.

It’s not about the comics, though. Not really. It’s about the idea of women intruding on something that guys see as theirs. It’s about taking ownership of a thing and trying to protect it against outsiders. Even if that thing needs no protecting.

Even if that thing wasn’t made just for them.

See, the problem with this culture is not that we like comics; it’s that we like them too much. It’s perfectly okay to know who Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman are, but any knowledge of their backgrounds would deprive our significant other of the opportunity to explain as we sit to watch a movie or a TV show.

And that’s the root of the problem – we’re taking away their sense of superiority. Their sanctuary.

Which I’d be sorry about, if I hadn’t lived all my life with the knowledge that being a woman means you can be ridiculed for liking anything and everything. You like sports? Ah, you probably only want to see the pretty boys. You enjoy comics?  You’re probably trying to impress someone.

You like pink and pretty things? You’re such a stereotypical, boring female.

Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t.

This leads us to here – to this moment, to the terrible, unshakable truth that being a woman and participating in a comic-related fandom is apparently opening a can of flesh eating worms. If you have an opinion – any opinion will do – and you dare express it, you’re opening yourself up to harassment.

From the people who disagree. From the ones that agree, but don’t like that you expressed this, how you expressed it, or why. From the people who just hate that you’re a woman and dare to read comics.

Either way, being a woman and participating in any such fandom means that, sooner or later, harassment is coming.

And the most common response from well-meaning people to a woman being harassed in any such situation is this: Don’t pay attention to them.

I’d laugh, but really, that’s what they want. For us to ignore the problem. For us to pretend it’s okay, we’re tough, we can take it.

And we are. We can take it. But we shouldn’t have to.

The whole attitude is a remnant of the culture of toxic masculinity, the same one that teaches girls to be careful so they don’t get raped instead of teaching boys not to rape. Victim-blaming at its finest. And you know what the purpose of this mentality is?

To scare us. To push us away. To reclaim a space that guys see as rightly theirs.

But hey, I’ve got news for you, comic book fans. Women are here to stay. And we’re not going to just sit quietly, no. We’re going to talk about what we love, point out what we hate and be just as loud and abrasive as you’ve always been.

We’re also going to defend each other; we’re going to rally around those you see fit to harass. We’re going to enjoy the conversation with those guys who get it. We’re not going to let the toxic misogyny dictate what we love or how we love it.

Comics book are not just for guys. They never have been. And we’re tired of letting you have the last word.

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