Monday, January 09, 2006

Ragnell Ranting

Rant Subject: Sexual Harassment
What Set Me Off: The wording in this interview that states "If you accuse a well-known comics personality--what they referred to in my neck of the woods as an "old soldier"--of harassment, you are de facto blacklisted."

(I promise something lighter next post, but I must get this off my chest or I will probably bite off the head of the first male I see tomorrow. And it'll be some unsuspecting innocent, I'm sure.)

(Click Here to see my Sexual Harassment rant)Most of you have picked up that I work on an airfield, in a heavily male dominated career field (I am the only female, for example, on my shift in my shop. Some shifts and some shops are entirely male). I was trained to work on aircraft during my enlistment in the US Air Force. And everyone knows what they say about the military and sexual harassment.

It was the best work environment I'd ever worked in.

Hell, it was a better work environment than any of my older female relatives had ever experienced. During my first term of enlistment, three female relatives all experienced some form of sexual harassment. My one cousin was suing, because she had a job that invovled roughly 10% labwork and 90% customer service/paperwork, and had been fired when she got pregnant and couldn't do the 10% labwork. Do you know what happens when you get knocked up in the military and the Doctor says you can't do 95% of your job? You do everybody's else's 5%, take your maternity leave, and come back to your normal job. No penalties (unless you hate paperwork). No pay cut (except perhaps for hazard pay if you get it). No firing.

And you know how I found out about one of the others? When me, my mother and my (also, at the time, military) aunt were all laughing at the latest "Military Equal Opportunity" briefing at Fiesta, one of our companions was visibly upset. The experience she related was utterly foreign to us. She was in sales, had been come onto by a coworker (who had no seniority, but was friends with the boss), turned him down, and was being screwed for scheduling, and therefore commissions because he didn't want to work with her again. We just gaped and thought "This still happens? What the hell?" because that's how much better an environment my aunt and I were in.

Everyone's heard of at least one major sexual harassment scandal in the military (usually the Navy, which may have something to do with wearing nametags on their asses, but my friend Cindy was a radioman and she never had a problem so apparently that branch was cleaned out also) and it's because of all that housecleaning in the 80s and 90s that I worked in such a lovely environment during my enlistment, and it's because of housecleaning that I work in such a comfortable environment at my current job.

Nowadays, not even a four-star General could expect to get away with that kind of behavior. Hell, even a Commander-in-Chief's been called on it. If a military professional were even verbally heard in private to express the same attitude found in Frank Miller's ASBARTBW Script, which was publicly printed, he risks being called on it and severely corrected. And the more seniority the offender has, the more severe the corrective action.

So, what kills me is to see an industry where the senior men are still protected in this manner. It may only be 5% or so, but what has that 5% ever done to deserve this protection? They've written comic books, for Mars' sake. Comic Books. This is not Colonel Stutz or Sgt. Levitow (neither of whom have anything close to this dishonorable attached to their good names, but the point is a soldier with a comparable record wouldn't get the break well-known comic professionals are given just because no one remembers their crappier work) we're talking about here. These are not "old soldiers." These are writers and editors. Get some perspective.

The entertainment industry is so fucked up.

Even Herbie knows it's Unacceptable Posted by Picasa
Herbie panel courtesy of Chris Sims at the Invincible Super-Blog

Click Here to See Me Make Light of This Subject


  1. Nice post. And as a life long civilian, I'm glad to hear that the military has become so much better about those things than I've heard in the past. Unfortunately, the comics industry probably won't start to get much better until those "old soldiers" are moved out and a new generation comes in. Though I hope that isn't the case.

  2. *nod* It's the weirdest places where these attitudes still happen. And it doesn't make sense.

    Or maybe it does. We've all heard about sex scandals in the military. There've been some awful, humiliating trials with lots of national attention. Therefore the military *needed* to do this housecleaning.

    Who's going to pay the comic industry that much attention? Especially if names aren't named. Silence and apathy are the biggest problem here and they have to stop.

  3. It is a nice post. And sexual harrassment is a bad thing. However, there was something that was striking me as odd about the whole thing, and then I came back out to your main page and scrolled down, and, well, there it was, that big pic of Superman flexing, with the whole package, and the entire text of the entry is Oooooh Baby!.

    And then there's all this stuff about Kyle Rayner's butt...

    See (and here, the surly middle aged not particularly politically correct sometime-lecher most likely loses you and all the women in the audience for good), while 'sexual harrassment' is bad, it flows out of an impulse to totemize and objectify fellow human beings that we find sexually attractive. We all feel these impulses, if we have a functional reproductive system, and these urges are healthy, and yet (here's me getting my bitch on) it seems quite often that when men express these impulses to and/or in reference to women and/or female totems, well, it's a BAD THING.

    But when women express similar impulses towards men, or male totems (see Superman, Kyle Rayner's butt, etc), well, that's just playful and harmless and even feminine empowerment.

    Feminine empowerment, by definition, is good. Masculine empowerment, by definition, is evil.

    Me, I'd just like to skip the whole thing and talk about human empowerment or individual empowerment, without worrying about gender (or race, or sexuality, or any of that stuff).

    You probably didn't intend it that way; it's just that you're a woman and when you write about your own experiences, or your friends' experiences, with sexual harrassment, then it is more than likely going to be something where men seem to be victimizing women.

    However, I have known many instances, in the many offices I have worked at, where I have been the only man working in an otherwise all female staff. And if one of the women there becomes uncomfortable with me, for whatever reason, and she mentions it to our inevitably female supervisor, well, it usually doesn't go well for me. Is that 'sexual harrassment'? I don't know. I just know it's aggravating as hell.

    Whatever the case, my original point is, 'sexual harrassment' starts with the impulse that is embodied in many of the posts on your blog. Do I want to see your blog, or anyone else's blog, suddenly become utterly sexless? No, of course not, I like sex, and in fact, I've praised you in past entries on my blog for displaying exactly the kind of behavior here that always gets male comics fans in trouble when they display it somewhere about female super-icons.

    Our human world would become a dull, grey, and very cold place without the sexual impulse, and, yes, its attendant, inescapable totemization of the objects of our desire. One of the almost inescapable consequences of sexual desire, coupled with human insecurity and the always present difficulties in all human communication, is 'sexual harrassment'. It isn't always the result of malevolence; often it's just, you know, people making more or less innocent mistakes and trying to adjust to the consequences of them.

    To me, 'sexual harrassment' should be one thing, pure and simple -- someone with the power to make your life better or worse demands unwanted sexual favors using that power as a fulcrum. When things get more vague than that, I tend to think we should all just shut up, do our work, and go home.

    And, for the love of God, of course keep posting pics of Superman's package and Kyle Rayner's ass, if that's what gets you over to keyboard in your spare time. Just recognize where the impulse can lead... and try not to be so self righteous about where that impulse leads in others.

    I've spent a lot of words on this, adn I'm not making myself clear, and, well, I'm sure I've already antagonized you enormously, so I'll leave it at this for now. If you want to get more into it, email is probably a better place for it.

  4. "It may only be 5% or so, but what has that 5% ever done to deserve this protection? They've written comic books, for Mars' sake. Comic Books."

    Going beyond the harrassment thing ... I've thought similar words whenever I've read an interview with (or met) a particularly obnoxious COMIC BOOK writer or illustrator. At some point, they liken themselves to rock 'n roll stars ... and they are to 5% of the population.

    Three percent? ... Two percent? ...

  5. I was very interested to hear what you had to say, Ragnell. It seems that the military tries to take care of it's own and learn from past history. I am glad to hear that.

    Too bad the comic book industry hasn't figured it out yet, huh? We can only hope and try from the inside, as everyone is sick of hearing me say.

    Great piece!

  6. Ok.. Couple things here.

    I met Colleen Doran (in the interview) at a con once, purchased one of her graphic novels directly from her, and witnessed her lecturing her mother on how she did NOT have to be nice to the guy who was harrassing her. She was VERY upset, and apologized to me (mostly because she had basically turned on me and did one of those just stop yelling things)... so it was nice to see her in that interview.

    Highlander, that IS her giving the accurate response to equal objectification of male characters in comics. It's not hypocracy. She's not complaining about the CHARACTERS. She's ALSO not grabbing the ass of a male coworker. That's the issue, and the fact is, even in a non-supervisory position, an established person who brings personal sexual tension into the job makes the job harder for the other person.

    The fact is, there is NO response to inappropriate conduct, verbal or non-verbal, OTHER than enduring the discomfort (or worse), that allows the other person to remain the same person in the eyes of the others in the workplace.

    AND THAT IS NOT FAIR. Which is the problem.

  7. Highlander -- Interesting point, but here's the thing. Sexual harassment is how you define it -- a person in a position of power (be that power through professional influence, personal influence, or the strength of the majority) using that power to make another uncomfortable. And it does indeed go both ways. My blog is not professional. I do not do these thigns at work, and my blog is not meant to be viewed at work. I certainly do not advocate de-sexualization. I'm all for sex as a natural healthy expression of humanity. It still, however, does not belong in the workplace. And comic books are the workplace for professional writers and artists. That's my problem with Miller's script, it is a professional document written in a deeply unprofessional manner. These guys need to grow up.

    And thanks to everyone else who commented. I'm glad this was so well-received :)

  8. So, Ragnell, are you upset at the fact that they used the term 'old soldiers' to describe how those comic professionals are viewed?

  9. hawado -- Gee, what tipped ya off? *Smirks*

  10. Well, I would think that when it comes to this crime that was committed, that the term 'old soldiers' being used in this situation pales in comparison as far as significance is concerned. It was the people who make excuses for and look out for these sexual predators that use that term, and we know that they are ignorant anyway.

  11. hawado -- True, but emotions rarely follow reason. I was incensed by the term, and could not stop fuming over it.

    I had to explore why, and lay out the attitude behind the term as the target of my rant. "Old soldier" is indicative of the "we're Heroes who deserve special treatment" attitude. I know that real old soldiers neither expect nor get excused for such behavior. In fact, their seniority means they are held to a higher standard of behavior than a young recruit.

    The misuse of language may pale in compare to the attitude behind it and the behavior it covers, but there's no point in lying to make myself look nobler. The simple truth of the matter is that the term is what set me off.