(Content Note: Rape and Rape Culture, Privilege, Sexism)
So in my last post I argued–perhaps not all that coherently–that, given the prevalence of rape in our society, it was a good thing for there to be comic books that spoke honestly on the subject, and expressed my hopes that, as long as it was bringing up the issue at all, Sword of Sorcery would be that comic.
Upon thinking some more about the issue and reading some additional commentary–some of it right on, some of it not–I feel I should clarify that my thinking on this a bit. I fear that, in saying what I did, I may have inadvertently also said, in effect, that the need for that conversation was more important than women’s need and/or desire for comic books that didn’t deal with the issue.
Sorry about that.
In case it’s not obvious, I’m a guy; as such, I was granted upon birth a heaping helping of male privilege, of the sort that allows me to actually talk about stuff like rape without fear of being triggered. What’s more, as a guy, I know that even if Sword of Sorcery turns out to be not to my liking, there are tons of other comics out there catering to me and my need for escapism. Sure, these are increasingly absent in the comics produced by the Big Two, but they are out there.
However, there’s tons of people for whom this is not the case, for whom Sword of Sorcery isn’t one of many sources of fun escapism starring people like themselves, but one of a handful, or maybe even one of one. And given that, I don’t think it is at all unfair for people like Sue or Chris Sims or Arielle Sorkin or Al Kennedy to expect that single comic to actually serve that role, or for them to feel disappointed or angry when it doesn’t.
One of the subtler ways a culture is sexist is when it expects women to continously educate men on sexism, even when they may not wish to. This manifests, for example, when male commenters expect an advanced feminist space to continously deal with Feminism 101, and when comic book readers expect women to be okay when their fun, female driven high fantasy book is instead used to hold a forum on rape.
News flash: Women do not have the responsibility to educate men on sexism. They can do so if they wish, but expecting them to do so at men’s whim is in itself sexist, since it in effect states that the desires of the dominant group are more important than those of the oppressed group. The same applies for every oppressed group and its associated -ism and -phobia; I am not, as a Latino person, here to educate racists on why Mitt Romney is a racist piece of shit in a racist piece of shit of a party. And if I only have one work that deals with my experiences as a Puerto Rican and seems to have been created for them, I will damn well be pissed off when that work is coerced in order to educate non-Puerto Ricans about me, and therefore revealing that I was never the intended audience at all.
I do think having An Honest Conversation About Rape in mainstream comic books is important. However, it should not have to come at the expense of stories women actually want to read. Here is where DC fails. In a universe where it and Marvel offer a wide range of comics starring women and girls for (and from) women and girls, having one book take a moment for Feminism 101 is perfectly fine. However, that is not the case, so even if future issues of Sword of Sorcery do turn out to feature that conversation–and that’s still an “if”, since what exists so far, is still, on its own, utterly unhelpful and unecessarily triggering–I will not consider it sign that it’s turned a corner when it comes to their sexism problem, and will be glad when it is called out on it.