It’s easy being a Heterosexual Male in the Comic Book Industry
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It’s easy being a Heterosexual male in the Comic Book Industry. It’s not hard. I wouldn’t even call it remotely challenging. I would say it’s a breeze. I get to enjoy comic books for what they are, read cover to cover and have my own opinions without fear that I’ll receive death threats in my DMs by 3pm the following afternoon. So what is challenging about being a male heterosexual comic book fan, you may ask?
To start with, I feel it’s important we have some context here. My name is Anthony. I’m a white thirty five year old male. And yes that means there’s a 90% percent chance I’ll start a podcast one day. Jokes aside, my sexual identity is heterosexual. I get up every day and go to work like most millennials. I come home to a wife, son and outside of work my biggest stress is scheduling my next interview for this website or reviewing one of the twenty of so comics that get sent my way on a weekly basis. Pretty hard, right?
You’re right. It’s not hard. In fact, when it comes to my views, thoughts and opinions where comics are concerned – I have it pretty damned easy. Not once have I received a death threat or felt like I’ve been caused offence. Hell, the identity of my gender isn’t even a matter for debate. I simply am who I am and society will accept me as another moving part in the grand construct of the mainstream.
Us heterosexual males need to remember the kind of privilege we get to enjoy as comic book fans. No one is victimising us, blaming us, hating on us or sending us death threats just for being who we are. As fans, heterosexual comic book fans have had a pretty good run of 80+ years and we’d do well to remember that. A privilege not even I am immune from.
Let me delve a bit deeper. Up until a few months ago I felt quite proud of the website I represent, the website I started and the people who made up my team of contributors. We all came from a mix of backgrounds. In fact, I have had most ethnicities represented in writing for my website in one form or another. Until about a month ago one of my contributors asked: hey, is there a chance we can get some more representation from women and gender queer people?
This was truly a light bulb moment for me (and not in a good way). I suddenly realised that, of all our contributors, we only had two women amongst the ranks and that attributed to merely 20% of the site’s representation coming from a women’s perspective. I was shocked to say the least. I never once consciously thought, hey all the contributors should be men. I’ve never once denied someone writing for us because of their gender. It simply was the situation. The status quo. This, to me, was shocking. I was being part of the problem.
More recently I was having a conversation with someone who I was working on a writing project with and she mentioned to me the sorts of gatekeeping she experiences on an ongoing basis. She feels the need to legitimise her nerdiness simply because she’s a woman. She’s felt she needs to prove it. I believe it, too. On quite a few trips to my LCS, when checking out my books and waiting to be served there were several instances of guys chatting up the one woman who happens to be working there. In some cases, even mansplaining comic book issues to her at the expense of those waiting patiently in line.
It’s a Man’s World. Is it though?
I don’t understand the ‘it’s a man’s world’ mentality. I’ve often associated that phrase with a certain element of toxic chauvinism that is not only inappropriate in every day speak but should also be considered ancient. In fact, the earliest memory I have of that phrase relates to men’s sports or a ‘man’s game.’ Football, soccer, etc.
I’ve definitely never associated it with comics. I mean come on guys. Let’s be honest. Most of you got beaten up in high school by “real men” and now you’re going to project that unrealistic expectation onto women who just want to read comic books? As a heterosexual man I never experience that kind of vitriol and that’s why being a comic book fan is easy.
Recently, I caught up with queer comic book writer Joe Glass for my podcast. We spoke at length around things like equality and bigotry that gets spat at members of the queer community and, most specifically, the queer comic book community.
As a kid, I grew up on media like X-Men and Star Trek. Creations that came from the minds of Stan Lee and Gene Roddenberry respectfully. Behind all the bravado of exploration and adventure was an ongoing message that resonated with me. One of inclusivity, acceptance and love for your fellow man. I don’t know how you can go from growing up on shows about aliens and androgynous life forms every other week to hating everything about someone.
“I have always included minority characters in my stories, often as heroes. We live in a diverse society — in fact, a diverse world, and we must learn to live in peace and with respect for each other.”– Stan Lee
Specifically hating on them because they are different. I don’t want issues of X-Men or episodes of Star Trek they were consuming – it certainly wasn’t the ones I grew up loving. How does one go from that to hating real life people who are different from you? I don’t experience this. I don’t feel like my gender or who I am has ever been called into question. I’ve received death threats or felt alienated because of how I’ve vocalised the way comics make me feel. This is why being a heterosexual comic book fan is easy for me.
In 1933, what is now considered the first modern day Comic Book, Famous Funnies, was released. A reprinting of earlier newspaper humour comic strips collected as a singular issue. This went on as a series until 1955 and Comic Book historians STILL consider this an important moment in American comics history. This was soon replaced by other companies that eventually became known as DC Comics and Marvel, but the rest is history.
Heterosexual males have had 97 years of comic books that are made for them and mostly by them. We’ve enjoyed that privilege and born little responsibility for the unfair treatment of others who love the medium as much as we do. Although, it’s been made for us in the past, comics are not just for us. Hell, we don’t own comics. It’s not a male institution. It’s an art form. Someone once said:
Art is not an elitist gift for a few select people. Art is for everyone.
That someone was Richard Attenborough. A heterosexual male.
Be like Richard (minus the dinosaurs eating people stuff). Understand that although art is for everyone. You as a non minority have an opinion that automatically has more sway. You aren’t receiving hate just for being who you are. Just for being the gender you were born with or identify as. We’ve had a good run. It’s someone else’s turn now.
Let them have a go!
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