When Silence Is Self-Care In Comics Culture

Advice Comics

Carrie Mae Weems: Roaming, 2006

I. Self-Care in Silence

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’ve grown quieter about comics over the last few months. After my speech this past November at UNLV, I felt empty. But even when I regained strength I remained quiet. Was I uninspired? Was I being lazy? Whether I couldn’t really tell, or I wasn’t being honest with myself, it took reading Kim O’Connor’s Don’t Be a Dick: Tips and Tricks for How to Talk About Comics piece on Comics and Cola for the reason to become clear to me:

I’m writing today because I think I know the answer to a question that comics types revisit every so often: Why aren’t there more people writing comics crit?

Some of the reasons are universal. (There’s no money in it. There’s no real audience.) Others are huge, but not universal, like systemic racism and sexism. On top of all that there’s another, more nebulous obstacle that some of us experience, and that’s the fact that comics promotes a culture in which people feel way too comfortable acting like total dicks to complete strangers.

When I read those words from Kim, it felt as if she knew what I’ve been fearing all this time. Like she was speaking directly to me. I know I’m not alone. It hurts to see people get harassed for calling out problematic elements in comics. I love comic books. There’s no doubt about that. But it pains me watch the harassment perpetuate – to use bell hooks’ phrase – an
patriarchal ideology.

I haven’t experienced a lot of this bullying myself. But the thought of it happening scares me. It scares me to the point where I’m apprehensive of writing, or even just tweeting, about the many issues that bother me. It’s exhausting to simply exist as a woman of color in a society that suffocates me with sexism and racism every day. Right now my spirit can’t manage even more of it in comics culture.

At this moment, I feel the spirit to speak up. I just don’t I have the energy to fight back. But I’m glad others have that strength. I love them for it. So much. They’re a beacon of hope and an inspiration.

Maybe my energy will continue to come and go in batches, though I always fear that it will run out for good. Maybe one day I’ll find my own everlasting strength. For now, my silence is a form of self-care. And if I can’t fight back myself, I’ll continue to support those who can.


II. Celebrations

A dear friend of mine shared a poem with me. I shared it with another friend. I’ll now share it with you.

won’t you celebrate with me
By Lucille Clifton, 1936–2010
won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

To me, this poem reflects what marginalized people, specifically women of color, experience not only as members of society, but as fans within comics culture as well. What happens out there, happens in here, too. What I like most about this poem is that it doesn’t offer any false hope. It doesn’t make a promise that things will get better, but it doesn’t forebode that things will get worse either.

The poem, instead, gracefully welcomes us to celebrate in the now, that we had the incredible strength to merely survive. Reading a comic, critiquing a comic, creating a comic, all take strength in a world where you are constantly told your voice, your body
or your life
don’t matter.

So won’t you celebrate with me? Celebrate that you made it through another day. Celebrate that you’re still you despite everything and anyone trying to change that. Celebrate that you still managed to be passionate about comics when its culture makes you feel as if you don’t belong. Let’s celebrate with our middle fingers up in the air. Smiling, perhaps through tears. But smiling just the same.

8 thoughts on “When Silence Is Self-Care In Comics Culture”

  1. Mariko - March 18, 2016 10:53 pm

    Man, are you touching a nerve for me with this post. While my domain is games, not comics, pretty much all of the same issues exist and it’s terrifying to think that I could be a target of harassment just for having an opinion on something I’m passionate about. I’m choosing to make myself more visible now for the sake of my career, but I won’t lie. I’m scared. I know I have people that will support me and back me up, and I know I know what I’m talking about. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared.

    1. girlgonegeek - March 18, 2016 11:28 pm

      Games is extremely hostile towards women and other marginalized folk. I commend your strength for being visible in such a toxic culture. I know it’s scary, but I have your back, too.

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  3. NeGaGi - March 31, 2016 4:58 pm

    I work in the comic industry, so I am all too familiar with the difficulties of being a woman in a male dominated industry. While things have definitely improved some, it is sad that this is still such a big issue that so many people are legitimately afraid to voice their opinions for fear of what the repercussions might be. All we can do is take each day one at a time building our courage, and doing what we can to promote change.

  4. Doris - April 22, 2016 10:54 am

    I’m considering the same thing as you lately – I panic about the things I post about, but I also am the type of blogger/reader who promotes other women and supports them where needed – and I think that’s something that the trolls and bullies don’t have; a proper support network. Anyone can harrass in agreement, but to support is entirely different I think.

    Anyway – I try not to let it stop me from posting the content I want to, and I know that if I receive abuse I’ll probably not want to blog, but on the other hand, I am head strong enough to know that silence is what they want – so I may at least try to defy that :)

    I love your blog. It would be sad not to see you post.

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  7. Betsy Streeter - May 17, 2016 10:44 am

    Hi there, I just found this post – and I think your unease is echoed all across the Web in women who are not posting, not being seen and heard, and not interested in getting doxxed or called out. We have lives and families and homes and those should not be part of the equation.
    I am a woman science fiction author, and in past lives I have worked in a number of male-dominated high-tech fields including video games.
    Weirdly, over the last few years I have watched things get worse, not better. Hiding behind a keyboard emboldens people who could probably barely talk to you IRL.
    I was recently at a conference for women and gender non-conforming writers where we talked a LOT about the importance of creating space for each other, hiring each other, listening to each other – building our own communities and businesses with each other. Not waiting for others to change.
    So I hope you will keep posting.


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