Last night, comic book artist Tony Harris, of Starman, Ex Machina, and currently JSA Liberty Files: The Whistling Skull, posted the following rant on his Facebook page:
This was just an inherently bad idea. Grammatically problematic Facebook posts are the lowest form of modern human communication. You could be discussing the intricate details of string theory at a hyper-advanced level, but if this is the way you choose to present it then you’re going to look like a moron.
But Harris just made it worse by adding in some sexism and unwarranted rage. Anger at female cosplayers and other female comic book fans for not being “real” fans is nothing new. In fact, it’s been rather popular lately with the widespread “fake geek girl” meme. And of course, sexism is pretty much the default setting in some corners of the comic book industry. But with this rant, we have an opportunity to analyze this rage and see what’s at the heart of it. Tony Harris’ idiotic ramblings offer us a fantastic case study.
Reading Harris’ post, it’s clear that he’s making several poorly founded assumptions that reveal his underlying paranoia about women generally. Let’s run through some of them:
- Female cosplayers “secretly” think that male comic book nerds are pathetic.
- They have a “really awful need for attention.”
- The thought of turning on guys “just makes [their] head vibrate.”
- They “DON’T KNOW SHIT ABOUT COMICS.”
- If a guy tried to talk to them, female cosplayers “wouldn’t give them the fucking time of day.”
It seems that Tony Harris thinks he has some keen insights into the mind of female cosplayers, but really he’s just assuming a bunch of foolish things. He has NO idea what they think of male nerds, why they dress up, or what they know about comics. This information is not available to anyone, because we can’t see inside people’s brains. And it’s especially not available to Harris because he chooses to sneer at female cosplayers from afar instead of actually, you know, talking to them.
These comments show that Harris is assuming the very worst, that these women are at the cons solely to “prey” on nerds. These negative assumptions are indicative of a negative view of women generally. Note how he constantly puts down the cosplayers in his rant, writing that they only think they’re skinny, that they don’t have “GREAT boobies”, and that they are only “CON-HOT”. He then points out that this con-hotness is “not by my estimation”… this is just what all the nerds think. Harris is too smart to be fooled into thinking they’re hot.
First off, pawning this assumption off on male nerds whose brains we also can’t see is condescending to male comic book fans too, because we’re not all poor virgin nerds who can’t handle being in the presence of semi-attractive women. Good work being a jerk to everyone, Tony Harris.
Second, this sounds a lot like when someone tells you about their “friend” who has a really embarrassing problem. Their “friend” is totally the one with the weird issue, not them… they’re normal. Nice try, Tony Harris.
Third, talking about women only in terms of their appearance is beyond idiotic. Harris’ entire post is about how the women look, and how they supposedly revel in the way they look and all the attention that they get. There’s much more to women than just their appearance, but Harris isn’t interested in that.
He assumes that if a woman is attractive, or in a revealing outfit, she is there solely to prey on nerds and mock them, because that is just what girls do. For Tony Harris, and outraged men like him, women are out to get him. This is the attitude that leads to all the rage, in comic books or anywhere else. When you have a negative view of women, you assume that they’re out to get you, to mock what you hold dear and destroy your private little world and, much more significantly, destroy you personally, and so you revel in your impotent rage. This is why some male comic fans think all women at cons are fake nerds, and this is why some legislators want to control women’s bodies and prevent them from being heard. Essentially, they are scared of girls.
All of this sexism and misogyny colours their approach to women, and makes them ignore reality. Does it make ANY sense at all for a woman to spend weeks on a painstakingly accurate Power Girl costume just so she can use her exposed flesh to prey on virgin nerds, when the exact same revealing effect could be accomplished with short shorts and a low cut top? Isn’t the more obvious answer that the girl actually really likes Power Girl? Harris is in the ballpark of right in his thinking that female cosplayers come to cons to show off, but his reasoning is entirely wrong. They’re there to show off the AWESOME costumes that they’ve put so much work into because they LOVE the characters. Have you ever seen the effort that goes into these costumes? A few women I follow on Twitter are cosplayers, and the amount of work that goes into these costumes is astounding. It’s so obvious a labour of love. Because I’m a guy, my nerd bona fides are just assumed, but the effort these women put into their costumes blows my geek cred out of the water.
This blinding sexism also leads to a myopic focus on fandom. There are SO many avenues that lead to female superheroes outside of having an encyclopedic knowledge of comic books. This lady might be dressed up as Catwoman because she loved Batman: The Animated Series as a kid. That woman might be dressed up as Black Widow because, along with millions of other people who don’t read comics, she saw the biggest movie of the year. That gal might be dressed like Harley Quinn because she’s really into the Arkham City video game. Comics are not the exclusive door to female superheroes. In fact, for the vast majority of the population, comics are probably the least likely reason they know superheroes. Movies, games, and TV shows reach WAY more people than comics do, and their fandom is just as valid.
Finally, what’s so hilarious and so hypocritical about a male comic book creator decrying skimpy comic costumes and thumping his chest as one of the guys who “make that shit up” is that THEY make that shit up. The costumes are skimpy because you draw them that way!! Good luck finding a female superhero who isn’t revealing a lot of skin. “How dare you dress the way I draw things!!” is an absolutely foolish sentiment. This is how female superheroes are designed, because it’s a damned sexist industry that way. But you wouldn’t know anything about that would you, Tony Harris?
That image is courtesy of Geek Girl Diva, who instantaneously saw the truck-sized hole in Harris’ “logic”.
So yeah, Tony Harris is an idiot. And so is everyone else who thinks cosplayers aren’t real fans. The road to this conclusion is paved with sexism, fear of women, a reduction of women to physical objects, an epic sense of entitlement, and the basic premise that women are predators out to get you. It’s a bad road to be on, but it’s an easy road to get off of if you just stop thinking about women solely in negative stereotypes and start thinking about women as actual people.