AboutJody Houser is a writer, a geek, a webcomic-making person, and an Angeleno.
So. There’s been some heated discussion about harassment in the comics community as of late. Comics Beat has a good rundown if you’ve somehow missed it. With so many ladies telling their own stories, I wanted to share one of a slightly different sort from this year’s WonderCon.
As with many conventions, there were a lot of pros hanging around the hotel bar after hours. In my personal experience, “BarCon” is less about partying and more about networking of the “Hi, I exist and interaction with me isn’t a total nightmare” type. Pretty important in an industry built on collaboration.
One night at this particular bar, a guy (not a pro as far as I know) started following me around. He’d come and stand right next to me when I was talking with other people but not really join in the conversation himself. He demanded one of my business cards when I offered one to someone else I was speaking to. He lurked around me for hours. Not criminal, definitely creepy.
The thing is, the male creators I was talking to at the time noticed this behavior. These were pros I’d only just met at this con. They asked if I knew him and if I was all right (no and yes). They kept an eye out. When the bar lost my credit card and I had to wait around after closing for them to find it, these guys waited around too. And they weren’t overt about it. It was just simple, quiet support in an unwelcome situation.
One of the reasons women don’t often talk about their experiences with creeps and harassers and worse is because the dialogue tends to veer towards “that’s just the way the world is”. It’s a compliment, it’s not serious, he didn’t mean anything by it, etc. And what that translates to is “Your emotions in this situation are invalid”. That’s why tacit acknowledgement from others that what was going on at that bar was uncomfortable and was inappropriate stands out so much in my memory.
Have you ever had one of those “oh good, it’s not just me” moments? There’s a sense of relief there, one that’s far too rare in these situations. It changes the air in the room. It makes the creep the odd one out, not you.
So for people asking what they can do, try following the example that these awesome male comic pros set. Start by being aware that this crap happens and offering support as needed. So many women are told they’re overreacting/paranoid/etc (by both men and other women) that acknowledging a situation is messed up can be a surprisingly huge deal. It’s hard to fix a problem when no one else will admit that there’s a problem there to fix. Maybe this is the way the world is at the moment, but it isn’t how it should be.