When I first started blogging, I started on a personal blog with some random thoughts and weekly reviews. There was no real direction, just a few ideas I’d never been able to get anyone to listen to and some ideas I picked up from my surrounding blogs. I managed to make my way onto a few blogrolls when I started posting regularly about women in comics. At the same time, quite a few other people started blogging about women as well. There was enough to start a separate blog just to keep the links on. This was nearly a year and a half ago, and I’ve been following posts about social issues of all kinds in comics very closely. I’ve been blogging them, particularly the gender ones, regularly on my personal blog.
I’ve recently noticed that I’ve been dropped from some of the first sites that linked me.
This was what I worried about when I first started blogging about gender in comics. People would see it as an issues blog and no longer read it. People would see me as an issues blogger and roll their eyes whenever I posted a comment. I know people have that sentiment. I’ve seen it in comment threads talking about other people.
“I hate how every podcast turns into some feminist rant with her.”
“I’d love to find a woman blogger who doesn’t blog endlessly about women in comics!”
Familiar? Well, try this one:
“Why do you have to make everything about skin color?”
Those comments really used to bother me, since I hadn’t wanted to be an issues blogger and was worried that my writing would lose wide-range appeal. That lingering worry is why I resisted the idea of a feature on feminism, social issues or diversity on this site for so long. I’d like to think I’m over it.
Those comments still really bother me, though.
Mainly because of the intense stupidity inherent in the idea that a woman is blogging too much from a woman’s perspective. A black person should ignore what’s been happening to the black characters that hasn’t been happening to any of the white characters. A gay person is being unreasonable when he suggests a gay male superhero actually be involved in a romance with another male character.
Honestly, people are not blogging about gender/race/sexuality issues to annoy the majority. They’re blogging about those issues because those are things that affect their everyday life.
Yes, I know that we’re discussing comic books on this blog.
But here’s the thing. These stories are escapism. We all come to these stories to relax. Everyone opens a comic book hoping for a quick cheap thrill, a few laughs, maybe some unrealistic over-the-top violence, or to check on old friends (so to speak). Readers want a way to forget about life for a while.
We need that escape sometimes. Your boss is angry at you for no good reason, the cat threw up all over the carpet, it’s tax season, there’s a war on (Mom calls to tell you Cousin Billy just enlisted), you’re between girlfriends and the attendant at the drive-thru gave you the wrong order and you didn’t think to check until you were two blocks away. It’s nice to pick up a book with a character you’ve been following since you were ten, secure in the knowledge that none of these problems will be inside those pages. And, with the exception of a joke about IRS agents, they aren’t there! It makes you happy.
The vast majority of comic book readers have the same kind of days. But, there’s variation on the theme.
For one blogger, her boss is angry at her, her husband cheerfully implied she was getting chunky, the puppy isn’t paper-trained, it’s tax season, the guys at work are ogling the models in the Victoria’s Secret catalogue, there’s a war on (and she has two more years on her enlistment), she has military orders to a foreign country where civilian women are legally required to walk around wearing a small tent, the desert camouflage uniform they just issued is a size too tight, and the President just appointed a veterinarian to the federal office in charge of women’s health. To relax, she picks up an issue of X-Men, hoping to be free of all of these problems and finds a mutant wearing a skin-tight burqa.
That’s actually a fairly mild example.
Consider a blogger who teaches a class on the history of film. Day in and day out this person is studying old cinema, which is packed with offensive images and stereotypes of black people, stereotypes aimed at her as a black woman, and she has to hold her objectivity to teach the class. To relax, she goes to the comic book store and picks up a new superhero team book. Only to discover those same exact stereotypes in her favorite medium. What’s she going to blog about?
I could toss out much worse situations here, but this is long enough for a first column.
My point is that race, gender, sexuality, religion, and nationality are not specialty topics. These are people’s lives. This is what people are. They are going to take it to comics just as they take it with them to politics and their job. You can’t just drop a piece of your identity.
A lot of people seem to think you can, though, and roll their eyes and lose interest when social issues come up in comic book conversations.
When we came up with this feature, I thought of the “Why do you always blog about women?” people. They usually are the same people who are fine with comics exactly as they are, and who get angry at changes like replacing an old character with a new character who’s a different race. The ones who don’t understand the point of diversification to reach a wider audience, and see it as a gimmick that will fail soon.
Taking the tangent a bit further, they remind me of the little valley I grew up in. The horizon was lined with mountains, and they looked like the end of the world. I knew better than to actually believe they were the end of the world, but I figured they were the only place worth living. They weren’t. I still love them, and I’m glad they’re still there, but there are other places to live.
The way I see it, our horizon is lined with straight, white, Christian, American men. To some readers, they are the only characters worth talking about. The only point of view worth speaking from.
Just past the horizon is the rest of the world. We’ll be discussing it here each Friday.