Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Because I think this is important to realize

Over on another blog there was a discussion over a comparison between how the treatment of black characters in comics has changed versus how the treatment of women has changed. The exchange got heated, the entire post was taken down and the cache only has the one comment now so I don't have the conversation on record.

Anyway, the blogger has put up a clarification, and chose two comments to answer. I had to say something, again, and I thought I'd put my comment up here for everyone's future reference:
Willow's pretty clearly upset because the problem was so much worse with African-American characters, and there are still unbelievable problems with African-American characters in all forms of media, and your comparison is sweeping that under the rug in favor of supporting your own personal agenda, which is examining gender discrimination. You are putting down her concerns to prop up yours. That is a problem.

Meanwhile, Betty was basically telling you to avoid this comparison, its useless and all it does is set people against each other. With this clarification attempt, you persist with the comparison. Why?
Next time you want to say that gay people have it better in comics than non-white people, or non-white people have it better than women, or women have it better than gay people, just stop. Its not adding anything worthwhile to the conversation, its taking away from the conversation. Its also arrogant as all-hell. You can only speak for yourself, who are you to tell someone else how to prioritize their troubles? What they should be more offended at? Even if you are a lesbian and a registered member of the Kiowa tribe, who are you to declare that "we've come far with race, but moved nowhere on gender" when talking to a Hawaiian woman who is grateful to be alive in this time period but can't manage to get away from the casual racism that invades her life?

Its all wrong, and there's more than enough of it for all of us to worry about anyway.

And stop wasting energy arguing about where everyone should direct their energy. I'm all for absurdity in an entertainment setting, but that's getting old on the level of people commenting on blogs about how blogging is a waste of time.


  1. Trying to argue which minority group has it worse always seems like a fruitless endeavor. For one thing, it's hurtful, for another? It puts people on the defensive and creates division in places unity is most needed. Sure, no one is helped by "my group has it worst of all" (I once watched an MTV special that followed various activists-weight, gay, feminists, etc- all claimed to be part of "the last group in America it is okay to make fun of" and you know... they can't all be right). Yet, I did not get the impression that was what Willow was doing. She was addressing the issue of the treatment of black characters.

    Do minority characters have a better deal today than they did in 1951? Yeah. Does that mean "problem solved, time to get over it"? Nope. It's really frustrating to see that when someone addresses a problem within comics, the response is to duck our heads in the sand. But then, that's kind of what the Big Two teach us, huh?

  2. But isn't this what started the whole Willow/Girl-Wonder debacle?

    Personally, I could always make the argument that the mentally disabled has it worse than anyone, but...

  3. I take your larger point, and agree – there’s no sense in driving wedges between people who are basically on the same side. But I have to admit this sentence bugged me:

    Even if you are a lesbian and a registered member of the Kiowa tribe, who are you to declare that "we've come far with race, but moved nowhere on gender" when talking to a Hawaiian woman who is grateful to be alive in this time period but can't manage to get away from the casual racism that invades her life?

    “Who are you to declare?” is a lousy question. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, and can declare it in any way they like – no credentials required. Everyone’s personal experiences are different, and people with different experiences see the degrees of these problems in different ways. It’s valuable to say this stuff, and valuable to hear it, because it broadens our own perspective. We can accept it, reject it or ignore it; silence only gives us the latter option.

    What isn’t valuable is the fights that break out over this stuff. They generate tons of heat, but very little light. We need to keep our heads cool, and remember what we all have in common even when discussing our differences.

  4. But isn't this what started the whole Willow/Girl-Wonder debacle?

    Not exactly, though it's very similar.

  5. My understanding of Willow's point was that she was mainly pointing out the different nature of the way colored characters versus gay characters are treated. Which, as susan said, isn't the same, but is related.

    I think, unlike the "who get the biggest violin?" debate, such conversations can add something in terms of understanding what the other group is going through. Not all forms of discrimination are alike, and if we want to fight for everyone's rights, we should be aware of the different ways in which discrimination manifests.

    And I think, rob, that that's where we draw the line between what you are talking about and what Ragnell is talking about. It's useful to share your experiences. Often that includes comparing them to other people's. But it's almost never a good idea to do so with the intent of bringing out a yardstick to measure which marginalized group has it worse.

  6. "Who gets the biggest violin?" is a truly wonderful metaphor, Mickle.

  7. Well, I can't take credit for it. :)

    Not sure where I heard it first, but since stuff like this comes up every so often in the feminist blogosphere, likely some feminist blog/blogger

  8. There's probably no way to say this without coming off as tiresome and pedantic, so here goes: Why don't you use apostrophes when you write the contracted form of 'it is'? I've been curious about this for a long time.

  9. For some reason, whenever I hear or read about the "which minority group has it worse" argument, that scene from the sensitivity-training episode of "The Office" where Steve Carell's Michael Scott character yells out "C'mon! World Series of Suffering: Slavery Vs. Holocaust!" automatically pops into my head.

    Addressing how each group is marginalized is constructive. Letting things degenerate into a pissing contest is a waste of energy.

  10. I've always thought that if several groups are being oppressed/disenfranchised/abused/etc, they should get together and fight it together, not argue about who has it worse and fight each other >:|

  11. @Ami
    They should. That they don't is tribute to the system that rewards conflict and allocates limited resources based on "greatest need".

    Divide and conquer works much more effectively if your opposition is self dividing.

  12. I also disagree with those who prioritise.

    You know the type. "Stop bitching about feminism in comics when WOMEN ARE EXECUTED IN SAUDI IRANIA!!".

    I can do both. I can justly complain about women in comics, global genocide, local and foreign politics AND MORE. And yes... at the same time!

    I'm not so weak that I have to choose one over all others.

  13. Anon -- (You couldn't have asked that on a linkpost or a picture-post?) I don't know the proper usage of "its" and "it's". I've been told a million times, it doesn't stick in my head and I forget it while I'm writing. Someone will probably tell me it in the next comment or so and I will forget while I'm writing again.

    I like to stick with the no-apostrophe version because it looks less annoying to me to leave out an apostrophe than to have one where it doesn't belong.

  14. You make an excellent point, Ragnell (as usual). It's easy to fall into the "more persecuted than thou" complex, and I've found myself doing it on occasion, usually when referring to appalling Indian sports mascots, or the casual use of words like "Injun" or "sq**w") and I hear myself saying "This would NEVER be tolerated if it was directed at any other minority group!"