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Life Skills for Fanboys:  Searching for the Words

 written by Tony DiGerolamo, Copyright 2014

 To further my goal of helping fellow fanboys, I have included an index of links of previous columns with their topics.  Don’t take it personal, I’m just trying to help.  Previous columns are indexed at the end.

The Right Words

Okay, so I’m not really sure what to call this column.  As I’m writing this, I’m kind of searching for the words, but something has been bothering me of late.

It’s the response to this recent incident in comics.  The incident itself is, of course, pretty ugly and worrisome and I talked on it last week.  So don’t mistake this week’s column as a dismissal of that or anyway of diminishing my own outrage at the behavior of certain, threatening fans.

That being said, the race to be all self-righteous and outraged over the previous incident seems to me—  And I’m struggling to find the right word to describe it, but let’s say it feels a tad—  There’s not one word.

It sounds that the people who are outraged about sexism in comics and similar issues like the lack of minority characters in comics or, say, the tone deaf ways in which gender issues, sex, drugs, politics and other controversial topics are handled—  Only pop up to make their outrage known and then, well, settle back down and go right back to the status quo.  As if suddenly getting puffed up and outraged about the issue was enough to actually do something about it.

Fighting Ignorance

Sexism, racism and other such isms are rooted in ignorance, which generates some unreasoned fear in certain people.  That ignorance is learned behavior and it feeds off the aura of being a victim.  Being outnumbered.  Thinking that you’re “right” in a world that’s turned against you and gone horribly “wrong”.  So when someone is sexists, racist or whatever, the response goes through a short cycle:  People get outraged, the media fans the flames, everyone “weighs in” suggesting “something” should be done and then, usually, we all go back to what we are doing.  And I think many of those pundits then walk away from the incident satisfied they did something by speaking out.

People sometimes try and counter sexism and racism by creating more opportunities for women and minorities in comics.  And I guess in some very broad and general way, this may have a countering effect on the next generation simply by having more women and minorities in the comics themselves.  But the next generation that you reach are made up of the kids of the people already in your camp, not the racists and sexist people you need to reach.  I mean, if you’re a racists, you’re not going to buy your kid the new black Spiderman comic book.  I’m not saying it’s bad to have women and minorities in comics, I’m merely saying that as a solution to countering ignorance, it seems that your are scattershotting the solution hoping to hit.  It may not be that effective.

The Wrong Solution

As I said last week, making Internet posters accountable for their comments is a start.  But that will probably just drive the people who say such ignorant and nasty things away from commenting in the first place.  Not much of a solution, but it would still protect the journalist in the sexism incident from getting threats.  Beyond that, the last thing you would want to do is created some kind of authoritative system in which these people would be punished.  Words, no matter how hateful, are just words.  Fines and jail or even getting the authorities involved isn’t necessary or right (unless the words become continual harassment or cross into criminality).

Open Dialogue

We need a dialogue with the ignorant.  We need to teach them, not punish them.  Yeah, if someone actually does something wrong, they should be punished, but words are not actions.  We need to set an example for these people and invite them into our world.  If we force or punish them, we risk validating their twisted world views by turning them into the victims.  Isn’t that always the rallying cry of the racist or sexist pig?  “I’m the victim, not you and that’s why I do these things.”

I’m not saying it’s going to be an easy dialogue or one that will suddenly have Neo-Nazis embracing everyone.  But puffing up your chest and standing atop an Ivory tower of righteousness isn’t really going to do much except maybe make the person doing it feel better.  In the case of the recent incident with the journalist and the Teen Titans and the rape threats, you have to open the door to these people to come forward and realize, “You know, what I really crossed a line there.  Sorry.”  Even if they spit in your face, you have to give them the opportunity.

Because then, when they retreat to their homes, these ignorant folk can’t reasonably delude themselves into playing the victim.  I guess that’s what I’ve learned after years of arguing politics on the Internet.  (And you don’t get more volatile discussions than that.)  If you kill your opponent with kindness, you can make a change or at least plant a seed of change.  Maybe it won’t work today or tomorrow, but at some point this misguided, ignorant people (just like all of us) reach a moment in their lives that’s a turning point.  Where you look back on your life and rethink things.  It’s at that moment these people might remember being given an opportunity to change and then spitting in the faces of those that offered it.  And it then, the regret and realization may come.

And, the long and the short of it is, if your world view is the most right, moral and logical one, then it can easily withstand whatever criticism is thrown at it.  Especially if it is thrown by the ignorant.

Anyhow, just my thoughts.

Previous Columns
Obesity at Cons
The Art of Conversation
The Line Between Fans and Pros
Geek Elitism
Convention Panels
Convention Volunteers
Food Gifts
Women and Cons
Get Your Room Party Together
Stop Bringing Your Kids to Cons
The Face of Geek Needs Work
Fixing the Face of Geek
Franchise Worship
Presenting Your Project
The New Image?
Stop Trying to Make Geek Cool
 Rethinking the Comic Book Con
Zombie Stories Should Still Be About People
Geek Stereotypes and the Big Bang Theory
Con Locations
Traveling to Cons on the Cheap
Con Economics

Comics, Sexism and Trolling