Last Monday afternoon, an article was posted on PREVIEWSworld.com by Vince Brusio called, “SDCC: A Last Look at the Ladies.” Unfortunately, the tone of the article was quite sexist and leering. It was illustrated with photos that appeared to consist primarily of models hired to wear costumes at booths rather than cosplaying attendees, and included this passage:
“It was the women getting into geek culture for the fashion sense that turned the comic cons into full-scale blowouts. And I, for one, am very greatful [sic].
“So here’s to all you wonderful women who give your all for the fans and onlookers so that they’re dazzled every year. You bring so much entertainment to San Diego. And this is one writer who will always open the door for you.”
I only saw the post because a friend sent the link to me with the note, “saw this and thought of you!” As soon as I read it, I knew what she meant: “I saw this and knew you would hit the roof.” And she was right! The implication that women get into geek culture “for the fashion sense” and that they do it “for the fans and onlookers” only serves to reinforce the “fake geek girl” stereotype. Fan cosplayers and booth models alike expect people to admire and enjoy their costumes, but insinuating they are merely doing it for the attention is insulting. If that’s true, what motivates male cosplayers? The post did not address this mystery.
I was upset by this to say the least, both as a fan and a retailer who works hard to make sure women feel welcome and well-served in my shop. We had 100 women attend our most recent Ladies’ Night, some in costume, and they were there because they like comics, games, and assorted interests that fall under the “geek” umbrella. The attitude expressed in the PREVIEWSworld article is one of the main reasons why we have to make a special effort to establish our shop as a safe space for women to openly enjoy geeky things. Posts just like this appear on blogs all across the internet every day, but it was disturbing to see it coming from the official blog of the industry’s lone distributor, with which every comic book store has to do business.
I sent a civil but strongly worded email about it to our store’s account manager at Diamond, objecting to the post. He replied right away saying he would send my message to his supervisor. I then brought it to the attention of the Valkyries—an awesome organization founded by retailer/creator Kate Leth (of which I am a member) for women who work in comic shops. The reaction among my fellow Valkyries was predictably unhappy. The official Valkyrie Twitter account posted a few tweets about it:
The Valkyries are not here to cuss anybody out, but try and guess how some of us feel about this http://t.co/taLYNd56mk
— The Valkyries (@LCSValkyries) July 29, 2014
Here's to celebrating women who got into geek culture because we love it, despite often being ignored by, say, our only distributor
— The Valkyries (@LCSValkyries) July 29, 2014
A flurry of retweets followed as the story began to spread online. Around the same time, I soon received a reply from my Diamond rep that he was forwarding my email to his supervisor. During this time, there was an attempt to edit the article to soften the tone somewhat. A sentence was added to this paragraph (bolding mine):
“It was the women getting into geek culture for the fashion sense that turned the comic cons into full-scale blowouts. And I, for one, am very greatful [sic]. No longer do we have to ask ourselves ‘how do we get women into comics?’ The ladies answered that question themselves.”
The article disappeared from the site entirely a short time later.
In response to the email I sent to our Diamond account manager, Diamond Comic Distributors Marketing Director Dan Manser made this statement:
“We certainly appreciate you bringing this to our attention, and we also had reviewed the article Monday night ourselves and agreed that it was not the most appropriate way to showcase cosplay at Comic-Con. We also agreed that we needed to find a better way to focus attention on a positive shift in customer demographics in retail stores, comic conventions, and comic-creating talent. That’s why we decided to pull the article while we consider better ways to accomplish that goal.
“We’ve spoken with the writer of this piece, which didn’t go through our normal editorial process due to the ‘on the ground’ approach to Comic-Con reporting, and we’ve made changes to address this in the future.”
This was tweet was posted to the @PreviewsWorld and @DCD_Nexus Twitter accounts:
Apologies on our PREVIEWSworld article. It wasn’t an appropriate way to showcase cosplay at SDCC. Expect a more positive focus in the future
— PREVIEWSworld (@PREVIEWSworld) July 30, 2014
As upsetting as the original post had been, Diamond’s response was encouraging. I was glad to hear that internal objections to the post had been raised already, and appreciate the efforts of a number of Diamond employees who worked to rectify the situation. I hope the changes in the PREVIEWSworld editorial process prevent similar incidents in the future. Too often, publications face similar situations and go on the defensive, making excuses and accusing those who speak up of being overly sensitive, etc., which just makes a bad situation worse. I was prepared to hear “I’m sorry if you were offended, but . . .,” so it was refreshing to have them agree that the post was inappropriate and should not have been published. In the end, Diamond did the right thing and provided good customer service. Many other organizations could learn from this example.