Robot 6

New Tumblr lists welcoming comics shops—but do we need it?


Comics shops are like any other retail establishments, I guess, in that there are good ones and bad ones. The difference between comics shops and coffee shops, though, is that people seldom accuse coffee shops of being unwelcoming to women. The food may be bad, but everyone’s money is the same color to them.

Comics shops, on the other hand, have developed a reputation for being uncomfortable places for anyone who isn’t a straight white male. I used to live down the street from a place like that, and I quit shopping there because of it—but that was in 1986.

That’s why I have mixed feelings about the Tumblr Safe Spaces for Comics Fans. On the one hand, I think it’s great to have a place for people to recommend (or warn against) particular shops. On the other hand, just by its very existence, it perpetuates the notion of comics shops as unfriendly to women, gay people, and people of color, and I’m not so sure that stereotype is true any more. Are there bad stores? Yes there are, but if you look at the blog, most of the comments are positive, with people giving shout-outs to local comics shops that treat them well. I think—I want to think—that this reflects reality. I want to think that the default is a friendly comics shop with good customer service for all its customers, and that places like this are the exception. The problem is that the bad places are more visible—that photo in the link has been reTweeted and reblogged all over the place—while the good places get taken for granted. So I guess in the end I am glad that the Safe Spaces Tumblr exists, if only as a place to recognize the retailers who get it right.



@BrigidAlverson said: “developed a reputation for being uncomfortable places for anyone who isn’t a straight white male”

What a racist thing to say. One can only imagine the grief you’d get if you inserted any other racial group in place of “white”.

@vjj I wasn’t aware that any other racial group had perpetuated centuries of oppression on the rest that, even in the most “enlightened” countries, society is still trying to shake off.

Sadly, I see the reason for Tumblrs like this.

Brigid Alverson

March 9, 2013 at 11:54 am

@vjj, the Tumblr specifically mentions PoC (people of color) as one of the groups they are focusing on. I didn’t make it up.

I think it will be a persistent stereotype for a long time to come, especially with them being reinforced in pop culture (I’m looking a you, Big Bang Theory).

@vjj It’s not racist because it is an accurate observation of the market demographics at that time, one that still remains dominant, and that can be perceived as intimidating to members outside that group (in bad shops obviously).

@Alexa There are plenty of examples in history, in the same vein as you’re mentioning; centuries of Arab slavery in Africa with a plethora of source material from the time that notes the racial superiority of Enlightened Arab muslims and the inferiority of blacks, though I know you only meant us here. Not trying to start a flame war or anything, just responding to your statement that you didn’t know of any examples.

I must say that at least here in NYC, I’ve never felt uncomfortable in a comic shop in the 40 years I’ve been buying my comics in one. Previously, I got my comics at a local drugstore. Back in the ’70s, there weren’t too many female shoppers at the LCSs I visited, but now, the staff is as diverse in my current LCS (a shoutout to Forbidden Planet NY!) as the clientele. All anyone seems to care about is whether or not you can pay.

@Alexa – responding with frothing anger gives feminism a bad name.

I am a lifelong egalitarian, no one should be rewarded or hurt for their gender, race, or sexual orientation, and no one should be punished for past sins that they have no control over.

These tumblr-based trends are slightly disturbing by how militant they seem

@Alexa (Ladies Making Comics)

I am a white male and I, nor any of my white male friends, haven’t done any of the things you speak of nor do I support them.

Judge people based on who they are, not based on what their ancestors may or may not have done.

@Ben, I’m aware of other historical examples– as you said Arabs over sub-Saharan Africans, various African tribes and nations claiming superiority over others, etc. But my point is that European subjugation of other races was on such a monumental and global scale that racial categories are not sociological transitive properties as @vjj was trying to suggest.

@mike, the fact that you refer to what I said as “frothing anger” says more about you than me. I was referring to a simple historical fact about how white European males spent centuries subjugating anyone else they came across (I point to the Crusades, the colonization of the Americas and the genocide of the Natives, African slavery, the 19th century “scramble” for Africa where European powers carved up the continent for their own gain, the British Empire in general), and that Western society is still shaped by those centuries of racism. Hence why it’s not racist to suggest that people of color might not feel comfortable in a predominantly white space.

Also to @Cylon, you and I (as another white person) continue to benefit greatly from the centuries of exclusion of people of color from the halls of political and economic power. It’s not something that you can disown or disavow. Western society has made progress with regards to its treatment of people of color, but it is blind and foolish to claim it is equal and that society has completely healed itself of institutionalized racism. Africans have been on the North American continent as long as Europeans have. But it was only 4 years ago that one became the leader of a North American country– and he still gets more death threats than the president before him.

To suggest that racism no longer exists, or that just because you personally are not racist you have never benefited from it, is a demonstrably false and harmful statement to make because it blinds you to continuing racial injustices– Why are people of color more likely to live below the poverty line, or be sent to prison, or drop out of school, or make less money overall than white people? These are all actual problems in modern Western society and they won’t be solved by white people patting themselves on the back for not being racist and claiming no responsibility for the sins of their fathers.

@Alexa, you’re right, “frothing anger” was not the right phrase. I was using anecdotal evidence through my past experience with followers of your blog. It was wrong of me, but it is the same anecdotal evidence that makes people think that there is a real problem in comic book store, not a media perpetuated stereotype. (Then again, I am sensitive to these issues, but have not seen anything bad in the NYC stores I shop in)

I am fighting the same fight that you are. My problem is exclusion does more harm to the people who don’t understand the cause than good for the oppressed. And most of the people that follow your tumblr engage in the sort of back patting that you speak against.

And, for the record, I never stated that anything was racist. That could be seen as a “have you stopped beating your wife?” fallacy on your end

@Alexa, I was just teasing a you a bit; and only because @vjj said “hey, that’d be racist if you said that about non-whites,” and you jumped straight to centuries of oppression. And that’s what @mike was saying too: that comes across as a bit angry. And technically to @vjj, it is “racist” in that we’re talking about race and public perceptions, but if even she said it about another race, it’d be racist? Not so much.
Just because one race dominates a field doesn’t make something racist in and of itself, and neither does the realization that outreach can be done to make things, like comics, more accessible to an audience that might not be aware of them, and in some cases, that are outright exclusionary (like bad comic shops).
Here’s an example: whites make up a majority of registered bone marrow donors at 73%, and African Americans make up 8%. If a White child needs a transplant, there’s an 85% chance a match will be found, 18% or less for minorities. It’d be racist to assume the system was intentionally set up this way, since it wasn’t. The NAACP has outreach programs and drives to raise awareness, and get people registered, and save lives, and quite frankly, everyone should register (even if the actual transplant process can be quite discomforting).
So a tumblr to raise awareness of shops that have outreach or events dedicated to groups that traditionally have lower representation?
My gym has a women’s workout area only for women that feel uncomfortable with the co-ed areas, but not one for guys. And now I’m rambling. Though that’s a draw because so many gyms are male-dominated it wouldn’t be hard to find one that de facto caters to men. I also live in an area with more Muslims than the national average, and the women prefer that as well.. Is that sexist? I had a Muslim gentle comment on the bus that if government will recognize gays marrying, will they let Muslims have their traditional marriage with multiple spouses? I lied an told him only Christian LGBQT would be allowed to marry… his English wasn’t that good and I thought it was funny.
And we are so far away from comics now, and why I try to never read comments in general, because it goes from comic shops can be intimidating- that’s racist- no, cuz slavery.

As a white guy, I just want to say I support what Alexa has said in this thread, and don’t support Ben, Mike, or any of the other dudes posting here that clearly have axes to grind (and enjoy mansplaining)

To go back to Brigid’s point, I work in a comic store, and while we have a diverse clientele, and we try to keep the store friendly to people from all walks of life, it can still be a struggle to maintain that inviting atmosphere. Groups like Safe Spaces for Comics Fans are great. Hopefully comic stores see things like the group and try to improve their businesses. More diversity equals a greater pool of people that could potentially be spending money in your store. And at no penalty to your current clientele.

Published in 1997, sent to every Diamond retailer account.

Neil Gaiman, as always, boils it all down into a great metaphor:
“Women feel as uncomfortable in these places as most men do when inexorable circumstances cause them, blushing, coughing and staring nervously at the floor, to spend any amount of time in the lingerie department of a large department store.”

If you want to read of a similar situation in a graphic novel:
“The Cute Girl Network” by MK Reed, Greg Means, and Joe Flood
Due out next Fall via First Second Books. (I read an advance copy. Order it today! 9781596437517)

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