This morning I saw a tweet by comic writer Kelly Sue DeConnick who wonders aloud why a particular website includes her marital status (and hers alone) in her biography. At the risk of treading the same path, DeConnick is married to a peer writer. This is a reasonable complaint in my opinion. DeConnick is a professional and her professional bio should refer to her own accomplishments, not subtly attach her to another person.
There is an ongoing pattern in writing about women in which a woman’s presumed sexual availability is considered pertinent information where the reverse instances (male marital status) is noticeably more rare. Granted, many people choose to name their spouses in their own public bios but in a blurb compiled by a third party, one must ask: is this truly significant information? Does this presentation of information place the primary subject (the woman who the bio blurb is written about) in a position of relationship to a man as opposed to casting her as the sole subject?
This opened up a long-standing irritant of mine: when journalists, critics, writers and interviewers introduce a woman author or artist as “the lovely ___,” or “the lovely and talented ____.”
It is a sore point because of how clueless the speakers are about casual sexism. The ability to cast a woman, no matter what her job, talents and accomplishments, as simply a thing to be admired, physically. It sickens me and I’ve seen some people who I admire perpetrate this as well.
It isn’t usually consciously intended as such but it is entirely a sexual declaration. It has nothing at all to do with the work at hand, whether the subject is a cartoonist, comedian, novelist, biophysicist or historian.
In comics, I remember seeing it a lot with Becky Cloonan. I am a pretty good fan of Cloonan’s work and would read interviews of her, but they got to be absurd. Things like saying she was an “ultimate comic fan’s dream” and “imagine if your girlfriend drew awesome things,” it was horribly transparent and creepy.
I saw similar writings when Kate Beaton got big. I saw outright disgusting things about Julia Wertz which I think is because her slightly profane humor gave trolls the mental green light to openly proposition her on her own blog. I’ve seen some female cartoonists harden up and get crass right back, I’ve seen others retreat from the public and from their career momentum. I’ve never had to do anything because nobody would treat a man this way, from the benignly objectifying to the openly hostile and threatening.
So how about this:
Show some manners. Men, be gentlemen. Don’t reduce people to the feelings that you have about them. If you think that the person you are interviewing is physically beautiful but you are interviewing her about comics, then keep that thought to yourself, mister.
Getting hit on when you’re just trying to do your job is not a fun feeling. It’s a nauseating and demeaning feeling. It can even be a threatening feeling. Even if the hitter doesn’t realize that he’s being threatening. Don’t do it. Don’t be that guy.