Robot 6

On sexual harassment and bad behavior in general

MariNaomi2MariNaomi’s first-person testimony of being sexually harassed onstage during a convention panel made the rounds of the comics blogsphere Thursday like lightning. Heidi MacDonald wrote about it at The Beat, and shortly afterward veteran writer Scott Lobdell outed himself as the person MariNaomi was talking about and publicly apologized. Usually when Heidi speaks on an issue like this, I don’t have much to add, but what struck me about the incident is that it’s a textbook case of something that happens to women all the time, and that many men, even those of good will, don’t always understand.

Sexual harassment is a difficult topic, and sometimes we tie ourselves up in knots trying to define and discuss it. But in MariNaomi’s account of the panel, it was very clear: Her harasser wasn’t just making some crude sexual jokes, he was ignoring what MariNaomi was saying and drawing attention away from it by focusing on her sexuality as a woman. He was denying everything about her except one aspect, her sexual attractiveness. That’s what sexual harassment is about.

It’s not necessarily about trying to pick up someone; that happens between consenting adults all the time. It’s not about dirty jokes, either. In context, with the right people, those can be fine.

It’s about not regarding women as full, complete people on an equal footing with men. It’s about not listening to what a woman has to say and focusing instead on her physical attributes. Pickup lines and dirty jokes are just the tools a sexual harasser uses to do the real job: belittling the other person.

If that still isn’t clear, ask yourself if it’s OK to belittle anybody. The answer is simple: It isn’t. Sexual harassment is bad behavior — behavior that would be bad in any context — that’s directed at someone because of his or her gender or sexuality. And this happens because somehow the person doing the harassing thinks it’s OK, because the other person really doesn’t count. No one pulls this nonsense on someone he regards as a peer.

Here’s a thought experiment: Suppose Lobdell had been sitting next to Mark Waid at that panel about LGBT comics. Would he ignore what Waid was saying and make comments about his appearance instead? Would he ask him if he’s gay? I think not.

The discussion that followed on The Beat illustrated a serious disconnect. The very first commenter on the original post is a straight white male protesting that all straight white males are not like that. He’s reacting to Heidi’s offhand comment that the (at that time) unnamed harasser “certainly stood in very well for straight guys everywhere.” The thread then got more or less hijacked by straight guys complaining about being put upon.

That’s a straw man argument and a distraction; no one is seriously saying all men are like that. Most men, in the comics industry and outside of it, are respectful and professional. I have never had a problem with sexual harassment at a comics convention. I’m married to a straight white male, and he’s awesome. But this is a problem we can’t talk about without bringing gender into the conversation, because it rests on inequality that’s rooted in gender.

Sometimes there are things that you don’t see, that you don’t understand, because they’ve never happened to you. You may not see what the big deal is, but it’s a big deal to the person it’s happening to. It’s infuriating to be put down, ignored, made fun of, in any circumstances, and that happens to women all the time, from getting yelled at on the street to being ignored or passed over for a job because we’re not one of the guys. We lose a lot of time and energy being angry about it and getting over it and moving on. It would be helpful if the men who never would do those things would nonetheless understand that it happens and listen to us when we talk about it. And from that, learn what it is and call people on it when they do it.

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That last point is crucial. Often a word from someone they respect — “Hey, that’s not cool” — will make someone realize what they’re doing is, in fact, not cool. That awareness is the necessary first step in changing the social norm. In addition, I would hope that anyone in a position of authority would make it clear to their employees and creators that bad behavior is unprofessional, hurts the company brand and won’t be tolerated.

On the other hand, it’s not helpful to try to analyze incidents of sexual harassment logically, something the armchair attorneys do a lot of on the Internet. It’s emotional, not logical. At some point in the comments at The Beat, someone asked why MariNaomi didn’t object while all this was happening. The answer is that she was caught off guard, and she was up on a public stage, but there’s something more. MariNaomi wasn’t sure at first what was going on, which is pretty typical. The thing about sexual harassment is that it’s often ambiguous, and the harasser cloaks everything in jokes, so not only can he belittle you, he can accuse you of having no sense of humor if you object. You become the bad guy.

An aside here: While I’ve never been sexually harassed at a comics convention, I have been sexually harassed in other circumstances. It’s awful, and part of the awfulness is that I ended up thinking “Did that just happen? Am I losing my mind?” One natural reaction to that is simply to deny it and go on like it didn’t happen, and even go back into the situation because maybe if you do and it doesn’t happen again, it didn’t really happen in the first place, and you can erase it. Attempts to parse these situations logically always seem to end up blaming the victim for not reacting properly, or exonerating the harasser because it’s really hard to pin this behavior down with words. It’s not a constructive approach.

That said, I’d like to end with a plea to the women to cut the guys a bit of a break. In some recent cases, the man involved has come clean and apologized. It’s a step in the right direction, and beating up on them because the apology isn’t good enough may be counterproductive. If it’s genuine and from the heart, perhaps we should accept it and move on, even if it doesn’t hit every point we would like it to. Deep change doesn’t come overnight; it’s a process, and maybe we need to allow a bit of space for that process to get started.



Very well said, Brigid. It is past time that “I was only joking” is a thing that can be said. What needs to happen is Person who unthinkingly makes other person uncomfortable is told and they get quiet for a little while and think about it. Then they say, “I wasn’t thinking and you’e right I was disrespectful and really, not at all funny. I’m sorry.” Then they stop talking and go away for a bit. If we teach people to do that, then teaching other people to gently note “You may have been trying to be funny, but that was not haha funny and has made feel uncomfortable, please stop touching my arm” will be much easier.

Sort of on subject here…I think we, as a culture, don’t know how to apologize correctly. In part I think it’s because for so long we’ve had the “shining” example of celebrity and political apologies of “I’m sorry you were offended” and in part because we think trying to explain our rationale for certain actions makes anything better for anyone but the offender.

As a result I think it’s hard to tell if Lobdell really understands the gravity of the situation in part because he was so quick to explain the motive for his actions instead of just asking for forgiveness. He very well could feel bad and was just totally ignorant of the implications of his actions. We men are often bulls in the China Shop of society unaware of the damage we can cause!

Your point about being quiet and thinking before responding is spot on, Erica. We all do much better when we can calm down, let a situation settle and give everyone time to let the reality of the situation sink in.

And Brigid, you had plenty to add! You made many good points and I think it’s key for us all to be able to have some discussion outside of the “heat” of a specific moment like this. There’s a lot of ignorance on men’s part in understanding the mechanics of these kinds of situations. I think a lot of men would rethink their actions and approach with women if they understood how this was actually affecting them!

I think it’s kind of ironic that Lobdell deflected the incident as a bad joke, and then the comments at The Beat were semi-derailed because of a joke that Heidi made in the article text.

I don’t like Lobdell and I never liked his humor. It was obvious to me that what he said on that panel was meant as humor. Awful humor. Inappropriate humor. But when I read the initial article, I thought “Oh, that’s a doofus guy trying to be funny, and really he’s inadvertently revealing himself in ways that seem really damn ugly. He’s making himself look awful, and causing someone else to feel awful, and scarcely even realizes it. If he has realized it, he’s trying to do schtick now to solidify this idea that it’s all a joke. And. It. Isn’t. Working. It’s. Making. It. Worse.”

I think a really important aspect of all of this is that the guy wasn’t trying to offend. That DOESN’T excuse his behavior — if anything, IT MAKES IT WORSE. There is indeed this weird sarcastic line of thought that people can get into sometimes, especially if the person they’re interacting with is very different from themselves, in which they honestly perceive insults as if they were attempts to facilitate camaraderie. I’ve seen it happen many times between various sorts of people (but, yes, white straight males are over-represented here), and it is really weird and wrong and should not happen.

It was also obvious to me that Heidi meant the “certainly stood in very well for straight guys everywhere” phrase as tongue-in-cheek humor as well. And as a straight guy, I got that joke and thought it was humorous in the one-off way that she intended. On the other hand, if other guys didn’t get the joke, I don’t think it’s right for women to just roll their eyes at them. Imagine if the same line had been applied to women. Y’all would be saying, “Oh, so it’s a ‘joke’ to stereotype women, is it?”

This sort of mania never ends, with everyone second-guessing everything and looking for reasons to be offended. But I don’t really see an end to it, not in this media atmosphere.

On Lobdell’s apology: I think it works as an apology. I don’t think that the comments on the OTHER article at The Beat, regarding how it wasn’t an apology, were really helpful. The guy apologized, period. He said he was wrong. Yeah, what he said was supposed to be humorous, but it obviously wasn’t and he seemed to acknowledge that it was inappropriate. Yeah, there’s probably other stuff going on with Lobdell; he does seem ignorant in lots of ways. But the commenters who seemed to interpret his apology as if he just said “Sorry you didn’t get the joke” are simply off-base. If we’re going to learn from each other, I don’t think it’s helpful for third parties to play Thought Police and read what they want to read into apologies.

Lobdell’s behavior, as reported by the target, was ridiculously out of line and awful. The apology-to-her-husband bit was also a disgusting move.
I was so disgusted by Lobdell’s behavior that I refrained from attacking MacDonald for her “joke”.
Heidi’s “off hand comment” was not at all of the same caliber, but it was a total bullshit move. I notice you don’t approach this subject with doses of defamatory/inflammatory “humor”.
Ironically, she and Lobdell had the same response to being criticized: the I guess you didn’t understand I was joking routine.
I notice she closed both the comment thread that was trashing ” her friend” Lobdell’s weak apology and the thread attacking her defamatory “joke”.
Thought experiment: try replacing Lobdell with, say, Kyle Baker. Imagine he did all that crap (NOT that I thinhk he would!). Now change MacDonald’s joke to “certainly stood in very well for Black men everywhere”. Is it still a harmless comment?

One of the most insightful and down-to-earth articles on sexual harassment of women in the comics industry I’ve read to date.

Certainly agree that sexual harassment usually comes out of nowhere, and it’s difficult to react to in the moment. I would like to posit a suggestion of specific action though. As a male, I don’t feel completely comfortable attempting to come to the rescue of the victim (if I could even realise what was going on) by confronting the perpetrator. Instead, I’m wondering if it might be better to try to cue the victim in on what might of just happened, in hopes that she’ll become aware, and be able to better defend herself. Just feeling it’s important to try to give the victim every opportunity to be the strong female character we all want to write about in our news stories and comic book plots.

Sexual harassment is complex and gross and terrible, bleh.

Thank you for posting this. Like others have already said, its a very well written article on harassment.

So Seth, I think the reason she “picked’ on straight white men is because of the entitlement that comes with being one (spoken as one, I should point out). Lobdell is a straight white man who is well established in the comics industry, and in fact most well established writers are SWM. As one, Lobdell can say these comments with little repercussion. Had he chosen to issue a non-apology (I’m sorry if anyone was offended by my jokes, but chicks, amiright?), he would still be a guy writing several books at DC and remembered for his run on several major titles (I liked his X-Men stuff). And he would be able to get away with it because of his position of power as both a SWM and his position in the comics industry.
Now let’s be honest, there is a whole separate thread about misogyny in black culture. I think if Kyle Baker (I’ve never seen the guy, but I hope he’s better than that) had been that guy we’d focus on men with no race qualifier, yes. But there is something to be said about the way privilege breeds this type of behavior in public forums. And rather than feel that the world picks on the majority, we should think about how that our position within the world means we won’t by and large be given this treatment.
You don’t see straight white men being treated like objects when presenting their work. The same can’t be said for queer creators, or people of color, or women Whenever you see a black lesbian artist or writer present her work there is a focus on them as issues and not creators. And some will just flat out criticize that work for being another story about being black, or gay or a woman not thinking about the fact they’re writing their life experiences the way that Jack Kirby secretly made the Thing Jewish (Waid made it official but the Thing was always Kirby at heart), or the way Schuster and Seigel sublimated their teen angst into Superman and so on.
So yeah, she was picking on SWM, but there is a reason to open this topic when Lobdell is the guy that was harassing her. She’s not denigrating everyone, she’s trying to open a larger dialogue and hoping for reflection. At least that’s what I get out of her post.

For several years in my 30s I worked in a nursing home. I dealt with people who came from a time when off hand comments of racism and sexism were the norm. Comments made without thinking because they grew up in a society where that was acceptable. Some of the staff would laugh and make comments about how funny it was to hear seniors make shocking comments so offhand and not think anything about it. I know that many of those comments did not come from a place of hatred but that didn’t change anything for staff members of a certain race or gender who might have been shocked and offended regardless. At family gatherings I would see older relatives do the same thing.

For years I didn’t think twice about this. Hell, for decades I didn’t think twice about it. But in the last 15 or 20 years things started changing. As a comic book fan who started slowly getting into social media, I saw women speaking out more and more about harassment. Reading stories about all this sleazy stuff happening at comic conventions that, in my little world, I would have never dreamed would be going on. If I’m honest, I’d have to say that when I first started hearing about these stories I was apathetic. I just didn’t care. It was then I started to realize that I was becoming like those old people in the nursing home. I was becoming like those old relatives who said sexist, racist things. Not because I said or did any of those things, but because I didn’t care. I didn’t think about it. I wasn’t raised by parents who thought it was okay and I never engaged in that kind of behavior but I also wasn’t raised to be a part of a solution. I realized that I really didn’t have a clue about what women and people of color were going through. I really didn’t know what to say or do about it. But more and more I saw people in the world of comics, a world that was my own personal refuge from the day to day grind of the world, speaking out against it and bringing it to my attention. Putting it in my face. At first I didn’t want to hear about it. I suppose I was a lot like many in comments sections that say things like “get over it” or “it’s no big deal” or whatever. I didn’t want this negative stuff in my hobby, in my refuge. But it seemed that there was no stopping it, or rather that it had always been there and I was just now realizing it.

I started reading more and more stories of harassment and racism on twitter and tumblr and various websites by writers such as Brigid Alverson, Heidi McDonald and Laura Hudson and others. And finally, finally I started to care. I didn’t want to be like that older generation that just got old and never changed and never tried to break this destructive cycle of ignorance and insensitivity. I still don’t really know how to talk about some of this stuff. I guess I really wouldn’t know what to say to a victim of this kind of abuse other than “sorry this happened to you” which seems incredibly trite and ineffectual and meaningless. But now, when I hear someone at work say something stupidly offensive or ignorant about women I call them on it. When I hear a relative make some racist comment, I try to explain why it’s offensive and to please not say that.

I guess in the big scheme of things that isnt’ a whole lot. But I care now and want to do something about changing things. I get angry when I hear these stories of harassment now. And I want to thank all those women out there who blog and tweet and facebook their stories and talk about things that are clearly painful for them to talk about. You are reaching people. Maybe it doesn’t feel like you are, but you are. This 53 year old white guy has woken up because of your stories. I am no longer apathetic and dismissive because of women who speak out. I still can’t claim to understand how you feel. I probably still don’t entirely “get it”. But I want to get it and I want to understand and I want to help and when I see this stuff going on I no longer ignore it. So keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t listen to idiots telling you to shut up or get over it. Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working. I’m proof of that. For what that’s worth.

“He was denying everything except one aspect, her sexual attractiveness. That’s what sexual harassment is about.” Is complete nonsense.

Thank you all for your kind words—and @Michael, your comment made my day.

“He was denying everything except one aspect, her sexual attractiveness. That’s what sexual harassment is about.”

It has nothing to do with actual sexual attractiveness and everything to do with sex as a form of hostility. Women who are not pretty get harassed and then informed they should be grateful. Sexual harassment isn’t about beauty, it’s about abuse.

“I’d like to end with a plea to the women to cut the guys a bit of a break. In some recent cases, the man involved has come clean and apologized. It’s a step in the right direction, and beating up on them because the apology isn’t good enough may be counterproductive. If it’s genuine and from the heart, perhaps we should accept it and move on, even if it doesn’t hit every point we would like it to.”

No apology I’ve seen thus far has been genuine and from the heart, and telling women to cut guys a break is just insulting and gross. The women carry the load for the abuse, and then are told we have to carry the load for their poor hurt feeling after they get called on it.

In the end, feminism is not about building a world where women overule men. Is about building a world where nobody overuling anybody. Where intergender relations are horizontal. Even if I do not live enough to see this happening, I think it is my duty human to work for this, because I don´t want my daughters and granddaughters or any women to live in a world as shitty as this is. I am a straight white male, but i believe that this argument applies to all assholes out there who thinks they are better than girls, but also to extremists who assumes that someone is a douchebag just because he was born with a penis. We have a long way to go, in this stupid “war” that can only be won by puting the guns aside and extending our hands to one another.

Scott Lobdell… Ha!

God only knows why DC Comics has resurrected this outdated mummy.

What Lobdell did is jaw-dropping, but his choice to come forward, cop to it, and apologize is a good sign. It’s not the best apology — it’s “Sorry about my failed attempts at humor, I didn’t realize they were making you uncomfortable” — but it’s a first step.

And he took some time, belatedly, to say some positive things about her work — again, it doesn’t make up for what he did at the panel, but it’s a small step in the right direction.

I’m still not convinced he actually understands what he did wrong. But he’s trying to do the right thing.

This was a beautifully written article, Brigid.

“That said, I’d like to end with a plea to the women to cut the guys a bit of a break. In some recent cases, the man involved has come clean and apologized. It’s a step in the right direction, and beating up on them because the apology isn’t good enough may be counterproductive. If it’s genuine and from the heart, perhaps we should accept it and move on, even if it doesn’t hit every point we would like it to. Deep change doesn’t come overnight; it’s a process, and maybe we need to allow a bit of space for that process to get started.”

Probably because it’s more immediately cathartic, the instinct of most people seems to be figuring out how much blame to assign to whom*. I agree that Lobdell’s actions were detrimental both to MariNaomi and to the culture we want to create. However, people like Scott Lobdell who engage in these behaviors aren’t cackling supervillains looking to make life unbearable for women. For whatever reason, upbringing, cultural, etc., those actions did not stand out to him as inappropriate. I think the next step should be to engage him in non-accusatory dialogue so we can understand where he is coming from and explain what it’s like from the other end. If Scott Lobdell is invited to genuine discussion, he and the wider community might think harder about these issues and their personal role in perpetuating them. If Scott Lobdell is repeatedly called an asshole, he will probably feel antagonized and try to forget about this negative experience, brushing it under the rug as quickly as possible and leaving a sour taste in everyone’s mouth.

So thank you for the paragraph I quoted above, but I would go further. We should not bash him for an insubstantial apology. Nor should we just accept it and move on. If we extend empathy on all sides, this can be a jumping off point for the deep change process you mention.

Anyone in the comics journalism community up for reaching out to Scott in this way and getting the thing started?

*Not singling out anyone in particular, there have been some quite thoughtful comments here.

I am not familiar with her work but I have the impression that Scott Lobdell wouldn’t have made such comments so openly if it was not a GLBT panel.
It may be his homophobic defense mechanism hitting on and some of his comments seem to hit at. Not justifiable in any manner but trying to understand what happened there.

I think Scott has shown enough disinterest in being empathetic towards women that trying to reach out to him is a waste of time at this point. He shows little to no understanding of his actions, from “people who don’t like my Starfire are prudes” to “I’m sorry the blowjob joke I directed at you rubbed you the wrong way.” He’s old and he gets paid; in my experience that’s all the reason one needs to not change.

Even if he wrote the Northstar coming out issue. But despite the coming out part I don’t take THAT issue as exactly a masterpiece of sensibility towards the GLBT community. In a way feels a bit as a mockery of it when I read.

Difficult to know what is mockery or not in a nineties Image inspired comic book

“Here’s a thought experiment: Suppose Lobdell had been sitting next to Mark Waid at that panel about LGBT comics. Would he ignore what Waid was saying and make comments about his appearance instead? Would he ask him if he’s gay? I think not.”

Well, maybe not Mark Waid, but to a less famous male comics writer? That could happen in a rather similar manner because questioning someone sexuality is a popular topic of humor these days. And then nobody would ever ask this hypothetical male writer if he felt offended by these poor jokes because he should take it like a man. Usually they do, but not always because even males have different levels of sensitivity about these things.

And if he happens to be white and straight? Good luck convincing anyone that this is a real problem for him too. Because how could it be a harassment? They were only joking.

Well, Lobdell was only joking too.

That’s why it would be nice to stop focusing on any specific groups of people when discussing harassments because in my opinion it’s more universal problem than most realize when they only focus on their own problems with it.

I’d like to add that for those who considered the apology unacceptable or decided that it wasn’t an apology at all, it’s not up to them to decide that; it’s up to the person that is being apologized to decide that.

And yes, Lobdell, to his credit, came out and identified himself as that man. How many guys would have identified himself and owned up to his mistake? That’s progress.

The only generalization that I had a problem with in the article was when Heidi vaguely addressed “Men of comics” to inform them that women were human beings with hopes and dreams. I’m not sure if she meant men in the profession of comics, or all men who have attachments to comics (i.e. fans), but it was something I took exception to.

If somebody were to say “Attention non-Muslims: the new Ms. Marvel will be reading the Koran and praying to Mecca. DEAL WITH IT. Its something that you’re just going to have to live with,” then I would take exception to that, too. Just because I’m not a Muslim, doesn’t mean I need to be told this.

It isn’t a matter of gender or privilege among whatever group you want to talk about, it’s a matter of the human condition to not have your thoughts generalized because of something you have in common with some douche bags. And I think it’s the quickest way to take a subset of people who are already on your side and make them feel like they need to dig their heels in the ground and correct the generalization. Just because I’m a straight white male, that doesn’t automatically mean that I don’t believe women are human beings, but that’s what the generalization used would tell you.

The offhand joke barely registered with me, because I read it as a joke the first time I read it. But it was still a pretty sweeping generalization, too. If I were to say that somebody stood in well for Hispanic lesbians everywhere before describing some nasty thing they did, I’m betting that a lot of Hispanic lesbians would take exception to it, even if I didn’t really mean to address all Hispanic lesbians.

I think a HUGE factor in this kind of stuff is tied to the line in this article about whether or not it’s ever okay to belittle someone. Now, in a black and white case of someone saying something mean to another with the direct intention of hurting them, obviously that’s not cool. But i do think there’s something to be said about male relationships, the camaraderie that comes with it and lack of crossover between gender relations.

95% of the stuff i say to my mates, is in some way taking the piss, cracking jokes at the expense of, or just being kind of mean to one another. At least that’s how it’s viewed from the outside. From within, it’s more of an open and frequent dialogue where we constantly express how well we know each other, as well as establishing the fact that we’re close enough to let pretty much anything wash right over us.

Now, this might sound like me trying to excuse sexism and bad behaviour, but it isn’t, it’s merely me offering a reason as to why it happens. If you’re on stage with a bunch of peers, whether you know them or not, or even if you’re just at an event as a spectator, that sense of belonging that drives us to these gatherings in the first place creates the illusion that we’re all bessie mates. So when someone makes a joke at another’s expense, it may be viewed as a malicious comment, but really it’s just a weird rush of adrenaline and pack mentality that tricks us into thinking one thing and saying another. People get comfortable, like they’re drinking and reminiscing with their oldest and closest friends, and before you know it things are being said that’re inappropriate to the moment.

Again, this isn’t me excusing anyone, or denying that there are issues related to fandom and interaction, but i do think that’s where a lot of these instances come from. And without getting soapboxy and beating my chest, i do think quite often people hears hooves and think horses, jumping to the immediate, obvious and easy accusation of racist!/sexist!/biggot! etc.

Anyway, that’s off my chest.

But feel free to disregard my opinions because they’re stupid and one sided, after all, i’m a white guy in possession of a penis, so obviously my life is easy and care free, devoid of the toils and tribulations others face on a daily basis.

…that last bit was one of those instances where it’s inappropriate due to a lack of context and familiarity with my fellow posters…

@richard I totally get what you’re saying, but surely you know when it’s appropriate and when it isn’t—I’m sure you behave differently among friends than with a total stranger. Especially onstage in a public setting. That’s learned behavior, and anyone who hasn’t learned it yet needs to start.

I keep wondering what I would have done if I were the moderator of this panel, and it’s hard to say because of exactly what you are talking about: It’s not always easy to see if the joshing is mutual. If one person is obviously pained, I would try to redirect the discussion. I might do that anyway if it was going too far off topic.

Here’s where it gets hard: If I were moderating a panel where a creator behaved inappropriately, would I say something later to him/her or to the publisher? Maybe that’s what we need to start doing. There needs to be some accountability. Creators and publishers need to realize there is such a thing as bad publicity, for their own good as well as everyone else’s.

Either you have a daughter or sister or mother or you don’t. And any conduct directed towards them ( or any other unrelated female) be it verbal or physical that brings them discomfort or shame should be avoided.

A person can’t get that, it’s a loss of time trying to explain it.

I can agree that males as a band of brothers, have a certain way when in each others company, where jokes and pulling legs helps the time pass and links bond (this works for females too. While I can also agree that what happened was in poor taste, what some miss is that some males are not wired the same, looking for slights upon them or females. I think most males are more likely to look for strong verbal slurs and slights against a female, than subtle ones.

Use of humour is also an easy ice breaker, some guys use to set others at ease. Perhaps what he said was a bit low brow (and perhaps he was looking for a witty blow off comeback from Mari, since they were on stage), but we as a people have to worry for the future, because one day you might not be able to say anything at all the opposite sex (that counts for females to males too. On top of that, everyone has different levels of sensitivity to certain things and no one wears that stuff on their sleeves, so we can all check ourselves before speaking. I’m all for equality as anyone, but where is the line drawn that says do not cross? Is the line invisible or should one draw it each time you meet someone (like I said, this is something that can differ per person). Am I drawing level the same line as you, or elsewhere? Complicated, no?

The other thing with these kinds of incidents, is that you have to be 100% sure that you were slighted in some mean intent way. There are incidents that occur which are misinterpreted and end up with a person that has actually done little to nothing, but gets hauled over hot coals anyway. Once the pitchforks are out, those carrying them in the name of being right care not and to hell with the accused. This is more likely to happen to males than females and can do harm.

Anyway, good that he apologized (something that’s a kind of lost art in itself). Tread with caution and drink water, not booze.

@Hufnagel, I am also not a Muslim, and I am a long-time fan of G. Willow Wilson, and if the new Ms. Marvel included such a disclaimer, I would smile and nod. Islamophobia and misogyny are both ingrained in Western society in really insidious ways. These are first and foremost institutional issues, not personal issues, though they have (often devastatingly) personal impacts on Muslims and women. You shouldn’t need a disclaimer on a disclaimer telling you “if you already don’t have a problem with such things, you may disregard this message,” that should be implied.

I mean, do you get annoyed at “Don’t walk on the grass” signs because you personally were not planning on walking on the grass in the first place? Or PSAs during flu season reminding people to wash their hands when they sneeze, because of course YOU know to do that (and it’s utterly impossible for you to slip up and forget even once), and how DARE this sign presume that you don’t? Of course not, that would be ridiculous.

Addressing broad social issues with broad statements targeted towards the class of people of which perpetrators are MOST LIKELY TO BELONG to is NOT a personal insult to the people within that class who are not perpetrators of these problems. It is merely about getting the message across in the most efficient way possible to the people who DO need to be told.

Heidi was in the wrong. Because she decided to take a shot at an entire demographic to further her agenda, she not only disrespected straight white men but also disrespected MariNaomi by serving her own interests of throwing her 2 cents in. She does this all the time. It’s her site, so it’s to be expected. However, I find that she and a large percentage of commenters on her site do the exact same things for which they often criticize others. The first commenter on her site was not making a “straw man argument” and HEIDI seriously said all men are like that then back-pedaled when called on it. It wasn’t an “off-hand” comment. It was a pointed comment aimed at straight white men. If Heidi can say “no, you got me all wrong, I didn’t mean it like that”, then why can’t Scott Lobdell? Ah, yes, double standard. We all benefit and suffer from those.

Luckily I mostly bypassed what Heidi had to say and what the commenters had to say and went directly to what MariNaomi had to say. The fact of the matter is that Scott Lobdell was being a bit of a “DB” and invading her personal space for which he apologized. He was clearly not aware that different situations have different standards of conduct. He did not sexually harass her, but that doesn’t prevent her from feeling sexually harassed. I say this because at no time did she explicitly say “stop it, you’re making me uncomfortable” which she admits she did not do. However, I personally believe that a person should not be touched unless given permission just as explicitly. So I wouldn’t say Lobdell did nothing wrong, but I also wouldn’t say he sexually harassed her.

In the future, MariNaomi needs to vocalize her displeasure when in similar situations. It is not the responsibility of her audience or peers to do that for her. In the future, Scott Lobdell should keep his hands to himself and stop assuming his behavior is universally accepted and do a better job of gauging what would be permissible in a given situation.

“If that still isn’t clear, ask yourself if it’s OK to belittle anybody”

According to Heidi MacDonald and her dogged squad of apologists, it very much is OK to belittle at least one socioethnic group.

To the best of my knowledge, MacDonald STILL hasn’t apologized for her utterly inappropriate statement that Lobdell, as the only man on the panel, “stood in” for “straight white males everywhere.” I’m still not sure which part of her statement is most baffling or offensive – is it that she dragged skin colour and sexual orientation into a comment in which it plainly does not belong, or is it that she thought for one microsecond that it’s okay to belittle an entire socioethnic group simply because she resents the privilege it wields (a resentment that is certainly justified, but that’s neither here nor there)?

What we need now – not just in comics, but in the entire culture – are people who are less concerned about grinding axes and more concerned with genuinely working to achieve a meritocracy in which everybody, regardless of their skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, etc., is free to operate without having to worry about other people and their prejudices.

I’d also like to add that I find it heartening to see so many people holding MacDonald to the fire over her remarks.

Even after clarifying that I’m pro-feminist, pro-LGBT, anti-sophomoric jokes, et al., and that I’m in agreement with MacDonald on the subject of MariNaomi v. Lobdell, I have nevertheless been confronted with libelous comments made by MacDonald’s fellow ideologues on a number of my personal sites (including one of my professional pages, which frankly astonished me).

All this for simply pointing out the obvious by illustrating that MacDonald’s generalization was poisonous, counterproductive and qualitatively objectionable, and therefore insisting that she apologize for it before the conversation be allowed to continue.

It grieves me to say it, but there are clearly people out there who have taken the notion of privilege (which is undeniably real and can and must be dealt with in countless ways) and run so wild with it that they can no longer see the forest for the trees.

The awful, uniformly sexist, probably misogynistic, white heterosexual male trees.

Oh, and on the subject of guys Lobdell and Wood, the solution is simple: call them on their bullshit. I can’t begin to imagine that Lobdell’s attempt at humour went over well at all, unless his audience happened to be composed of especially stupid elementary school-aged children. We can all do our due diligence in this regard in a number of ways: if you’re in attendance when some jerk on a panel makes a joke about mangoes and cumming, look them in the eye and mouth the words “What the fu…?” If you see this kind of thing at a show and aren’t in a position to address the behaviour, blog about it. Name names. I’ve done it; you can do it, too. We can all do it.

But the onus must lie first and foremost with the aggrieved party, I’m afraid. If you’re the target of this sort of inappropriate behaviour, don’t clam up, don’t let it slide, don’t cry about it many hours after the fact, and realize that if you do any of those things you’re missing a pretty important opportunity to affect the kind of change we need to see in comics.

While it’s true that comics is still very much a “boys’ club,” it’s equally true that Scott Lobdell is not so important or influential that anybody can’t tell him that he’s acting like an asshole when he’s acting like an asshole. This wasn’t a scenario in which Lobdell wielded any kind of real power over MariNaomi – he was not physically intimidating her, he was not attempting to bully her professionally, etc. – and I’m surprised she, as a professional speaker on a panel with a right not to be treated like a fool, didn’t speak up. Everybody I know would have torn the guy a new one, and rightfully so.

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s time for all of us to speak up and speak out, and to realize that the kind of privilege enjoyed by the Scott Lobdells of the industry extends just so far. If guys like that aren’t shouted down, they’ll continue to prey on the timid in perpetuity.

You’re confusing the issue. It’s not about what the disclaimer says, it’s the fact that it addresses an entire group of people and then presumes that they all need to heed it’s message. It presumes that the misogynist mentality that is rampant in the industry is the fault of all “men of comics.” Naturally, any man of comics that is actively trying to change the mentality would hear that and say, “Wait, this is friendly fire.” If the disclaimer were addressed to closed minded folk, then the generalization would actually only apply to those who need to heed the message (and I’d be nodding along with it.) I just wish that, as a journalist, Heidi had payed closer attention to her phrasing. So instead of addressing the CLASS of people that the perpetrators belong to, we could just address the PERPETRATORS.

Also, do you really think the tone Heidi used was the same as a friendly reminder that washing your hands well help keep you healthy? Really? The “don’t walk on the grass sign” isn’t assuming that I’m a bad person, simply that I am ambulatory and near the grass. These come nowhere close to someone telling me that I need to recognize that women are humans. Apples to oranges.

A quick rule of thumb: directing crude, sexual humour at total strangers is not a good idea, no matter the gender or sexual orientation of said strangers. Calling Scott Lobdell out on his bad behavior is not in any way contributing to a future where “you might not be able to say anything at all to the opposite sex”.

He acted like a total fool, and he deserves to be called out on it.

Having said that, I also resent the fact that some will see Scott Lobdell as representing all “white, straight males.” He does not represent me.

Maybe MariNaomi edited her text without noting it (although that seems unlikely), but I can’t find anything about his appearance there. She of course says that he was male, and the only person on panel she didn’t know (without naming any of the others), and later realizes he’s straight.

Heidi MacDonald then apparently knows not only that he is white but also that he was “the sole heterosexual white male” on the panel, despite not knowing his identity at the time of writing.

Paul, you should calm down. You seem way too emotional to discuss this rationally.

ok serious answer – yeah, it sucks to be lumped in with a group who are doing nasty things when you yourself haven’t done anything. It sucks to be judged on the basis of your group identity. It’s not comfortable. Live with that discomfort. Feel it. And keep it to yourself, rather than asking other people to manage your discomfort. Look past your ego because you are not actually being harmed when people diss cis white men as a group.

“the onus must lie first and foremost with the aggrieved party, I’m afraid.”

This was a really amusing thing I saw today on Tumblr - – but not every woman is capable of being a Joss Whedon heroine who always is prepared to kick ass.
It shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of the victim to call out their harasser in that moment. Women shouldn’t be obligated to always respond with strength and perfect poise. The whole point of harassment is to make the woman feel too isolated and intimidated to respond effectively – so it’s the responsibility of the peer group to assist her in pushing back against the harassment. It’s the responsibility of the group to create an overall climate where there is accountability for harassment.

Notastrawman: “He did not sexually harass her…so I wouldn’t say Lobdell did nothing wrong, but I also wouldn’t say he sexually harassed her.”

“I was sexually harassed” is literally the title of her original post, so, you’re wrong and your opinion is unappreciated.

Another great post, Brigid!

So many good things can come from the discussions that are being generated on this topic/specific situation.

I felt prompted to comment because one important point you make that should not be lost in all of this is the intent of your last paragraph. Humans tend to not progress when we aren’t forgiving or understanding of one and other. Everyone that has lived long enough and/or spent time reflecting on themselves will discover they have done or said things that you later recognize as being wrong. Sometimes how wrong something was becomes even more clear over time than it did the first time you recognized the wrongness. Sometimes you knew something was wrong the entire time but didn’t even realize you we’re doing something that violated that belief.

Point is, beating up on a person who isn’t apologizing “correctly” or “enough” runs the risk of them abandoning the idea that they made a mistake or they should change because they can never make amends or are dealing with an uncaring and unreasonable populous.

Intentionally or not, the SWM comment that seems to have as many riled up as much as the original issue may be a blessing in that it further illustrates the balance we all need to be mindful about when we do and do not take our words and actions seriously enough (or too seriously).

Avi –

Are you being ironic? Because you’re telling Paul to keep his discomfort to himself and isn’t that just the sort of thing misogynist folks tell women who have been harassed? To keep quiet and not to respond when people judge you based on what “group” you belong to?

I ask this, because your first post was clearly ironic.


I’m sure you have the best intentions in your comments, but I think you are being rather harsh.

True, harassment can only be first identified by the person who feels harassed, but if you want to take it to the legal definitions of harassment, then the standard becomes higher for an action to meet that type of criteria. I had interpreted Notastrawman’s comment to be more in lines of this. Saying you feel harassed is enough to say an action is unwanted and uncomfortable, but for it to be legal sexual harassment, more had to happen for Lobdell to be successfully charged with any hope of a conviction. Wrong or right, saying you have been sexually harassed is not enough to make it a case of sexual harassment. In a more traditional legal sense, Notastrawman’s reading of the description is accurate.

I wasn’t going to say anything, but you also wrote the following:

“It’s not comfortable. Live with that discomfort. Feel it. And keep it to yourself, rather than asking other people to manage your discomfort”

I know you are not speaking about someone who is being sexually harassed, but would you offer this same advice to someone who was harassed or bullied? A person who is upset because they feel they are being discriminated against, whether it is due to race, gender, sexual preference or anything else, has often been told to keep it to themselves and learn to live with it. Yes, you acknowledge that it “sucks.” The fact that it does suck, means we can do better. It shouldn’t matter if we are speaking of white men or African American women, I believe we can all make a better point in our thoughts when we aren’t asking anyone to keep something to themselves and have to live with feeling insulted when being identified unfairly. We should not ask women to hold their tongues if they feel they are being unfairly characterized by being lumped into a large categorization and we should not ask men to do that either. We should not make some sweeping generalization about a race of people, whether that race is a minority or not.

Finally, while I agree our society should support harassed women and aid in holding everyone accountable for unacceptable behavior, we also need to teach our sisters and daughters to strive for the strength to call out their harasser in or after the moment. I believe every woman can possess the ability to be a heroine ready to kick ass and should be groomed and encouraged to do so. In fact, our son’s and brothers also need to be heroes ready to kick ass. Each person does need to be able to speak up for themselves when wronged so that they can also do it for others.

Thank you for considering my thoughts.

Thank you David, great comment, sums up a lot of what I’ve been thinking.

As a straight white man, I’m not that torn up about Heidi’s “standing in for straight white male’s everywhere” comment. Yes, she could have framed it much much better, but the backlash to the comment seems disproportionate to the actual ill effects.

A good question to ask is: are your feelings actually hurt by the comment? Mine aren’t, because we are in a position of power and privilege, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. If the same comment were made about a minority I was a part of, I would feel legitimately hurt by the comment. Minorities are still feeling the negative effects of generations of discrimination and current cultural stigmas, and a comment like that makes them feel judged unfairly as their race/gender/orientation, not as a human. As a straight white male, I have only ever known people reacting to me as the norm, looking at my personality, not my skin. So I don’t harbor any fears that the comment will contribute to a culture of discrimination against SWMs.

However, I am aware that I don’t speak for all SWMs. So I’m curious: Did any SWMs feel genuinely hurt by the comment, or was it a more detached judgement that she shouldn’t have said it?

“you’re telling Paul to keep his discomfort to himself and isn’t that just the sort of thing misogynist folks tell women who have been harassed?”

That’s a false equivalence because the context is completely different, and I would not give the same advice to a women who was harassed.
Feeling a little bit uncomfortable does not compare to feeling intimidated or frightened. Paul is upset because of a remark that was not even directed specifically towards him. Generalizations of men do not contribute to a culture of prejudice against men.

““I was sexually harassed” is literally the title of her original post, so, you’re wrong and your opinion is unappreciated.”

Yeah, I know. I read it. She clearly felt sexually harassed, but that doesn’t mean she was. The term “sexual harassment” is used in too broad a fashion to begin with.

Your inability to understand the difference is unappreciated, and therefor you are wrong.

“Generalizations of men do not contribute to a culture of prejudice against men”

You clearly haven’t spent a lot of time in The Beat’s comment section.

As for Stacey’s comment, I wasn’t arguing the legal definition so much as the casual usage of the term itself because it’s bandied about so often. “I was sexually harassed” is just so much better of a title than “I was made to feel uncomfortable by the unwelcome and inappropriate actions of a guy at a comic book convention.”

Wexter –

No, I didn’t feel personally hurt by the comment, I just felt a bit sad.

Avi –

Yes, not equivalent in degree, but maybe equivalent in kind.

Wexter and Avi –

Certainly it’s a huge privilege, being judged by your personality, except in those few situations where you’re lumped with an immature jerk like Lobdell, but I admit those are rare. No, the part of “power and privilege” that I don’t like very much is how it is… short-sighted, materialistic, capitalistic. I don’t want to have power over other people, that is a sign of spirtual illness to me. I don’t want more money than the necessary for a modest, comfortable life. I passed over a promotion at my job, because I wanted to have more time with my family. I don’t want the “privilege” of a high pressure position of power where you work long hours, makes a lot of money you won’t get to spend and gains a heart attack and an early grave. Those masculine “privileges” are poison disguised as sweets.

People are always fighting to gain power, to be “self”-reliant, more competitive, to have leadership. Why so very few are fighting for the real privileges of serving your fellow human beings? I’d rather be a teacher or a nurse, typical “feminine” professions, than being a top exec and having the “privilege” of a big, expensive car.

I think in stories like this what often comes out is “guys are assholes” when the larger truth of the matter is “assholes are assholes”. Yes, if the asshole and the person being mistreated are different in some way, you can call it sexism, or racism, or homophobia, and sometimes those are valid labels. But what I see all too often is the straight white males saying “gee, that’s horrible, we’re not all like that” and being told “oh so you’re taking the side of the assholes”. I’d rather focus on bad behavior as a bad thing and not scapegoat somebody’s demographics.

@Ray Yes, assholes are assholes, but there is also something systemic going on here: This sort of aggression is more often directed by men at women than the other way around, and it’s so common that virtually every woman I have ever spoken to has been through it. My own daughter, who is not yet 21, has experienced it. That demographic fact is rooted in our social structures and in unconscious assumptions, and it cannot be ignored.

That said, of course not all men are like that. You know whose thinking informed this post more than anyone else? My dad, who believed that everyone was due the same respect and hated to see anyone mocked or belittled, even in fun. I felt like I was channeling him part of the time, having heard him so many times react to a comment I made about someone, even in private, or something he saw on TV.

(He also told me, when I was four years old and in tears because a friend wouldn’t let me use his toy tool set because I was a girl, that I could do anything the boys could do. And then he taught me how to use his real tools.)

I think I made it pretty clear in the post that most guys aren’t the problem. A few are. But this is very much a male-female issue, and we can’t pretend it isn’t.

I’ve forced myself to read the comment threads on all of the recent articles about women being sexually harassed in the comics industry, and every one of them has eventually (or sometimes immediately) degenerated into a group of men complaining that they feel attacked because a woman dared to talk about the fact that sexual harassment is a problem, and dared to implicate men.

Men: do you understand at all why it is that women keep talking about this issue in front of you? Why we are forcing ourselves to tell you these stories we honestly would rather forget? We’re not telling our stories in order to attack you. We’re telling them because *we need you to help fix this.* Women alone can’t stop men from sexually harassing them. We’re telling these stories because we need you to realize that this is happening all around you–right under your noses, half the time–and we need some damn help! We need you to call each other out when you see these things happening, and perhaps more importantly, *look* for these things, and learn to recognize them, so you’ll actually notice them in the first place. The fact that many of our most painful, hideous memories of sexual harassment have occurred with a whole lot of other men just standing there, right in the immediate vicinity, is one of the things that makes this so difficult and so demoralizing. And the fact that, in an industry dominated by straight, white men, our perpetrators have been overwhelmingly straight, white men is simply that–a fact–and a predictable one, too. In a room dominated by a single demographic, it is the people of that demographic who are going to feel the safest and most empowered to do whatever they want, without fear of consequences. And, up to now, our perpetrators pretty much *have* experienced no consequences. What you’re perceiving as a generalization is, to us, just plain reality. Only you can change that.

If that’s never been you, great! Keep being awesome! But if you’re pissed off that somehow you’re still being implicated… don’t you see? The people who are doing this to you aren’t the women telling these stories. They are the men who are still harassing us. So instead of ranting on about how unfair we’re being, time and again, why don’t you direct your hostility in the appropriate direction and help us do something about it?


The problem isn’t talking about this with men. In this situation, the problem is having a complete refusal to acknowledge that Heidi phrased her story poorly. I’m not commenting on this to rant and rave that not all men sexually harass people, I’m commenting because somebody who is on my side of this argument threw me under the bus. Is it that difficult to just say that she phrased herself poorly? You realize that doesn’t mean that we’ve lost the argument, right?

Can we, days later, move past that Heidi MacDonald made a flippant remark that rubbed some people the wrong way? If you’re looking for an apology from Heidi, I recommend taking it up at her blog.

Great post Melinda.

Under the bus is where you belong if your whole gripe about misogyny is “bu-bu-but I’M one of the GOOD ones!”

Dude, you are NOT one of the “good ones.” You are selfish, derailing and more concerned with your “not ALL men” argument than you are concerned with sexual harassment as a pandemic problem.

Man to man, man? ALL men are complicit. Deal with it.

ALL men are complicit? Even the ones that are still babies? Is that some kind of genetic trait of men, then? When there are people on the “right” side of this issue that are so verbally combative, so quick to make generalizations and to draw lines in the sand, I can’t help but thinking of them as “men” and “complicit”, no matter what their plumbing, they still think like “real men”.

Melinda –

I am with you in all that you said. I don’t make excuses for Lobdell, and in fact I find his behaviour so outrageous that I hesitate to call him “empowered”. I would call him a child, except that would be an insult to children and imply that he has some innocence. I have met many men like him. I agree that stuff like that must be denounced, that people must be educated that that isn’t acceptable behaviour, and that any “bystanders” must intervene when that kind of thing happens.

I also agree that there is a social structure that facilitates such things. Where I do not agree is with the implicit viewpoint that such a situation is “good” for males and that we all secretly or not-so-secretly smile and pump our fists at the prospect of being “top dogs” in some social hierarchy. I find that sexist structures are as demeaning to males as they are to females. MariNaomi was publicly humiliated, and that is a horrible situation. Scott Lobdell is a moral dwarf, and that is a even more horrible situation to be in.

Rene- I think at this point it would be good to make a distinction. What you’re talking about is the cultural expectations of what one chooses to do with their privilege, not the privilege itself. Thank you for bringing this into the discussion. It’s kinda off topic, but it’s one of the most important issues to me. Our culture says that the end goal of life is money, power over others, and status symbols like a big house or high-highfalutin’ job title. People of all different races, genders, and orientations are judging themselves by this goal. The sad part is that the goal is usually only achieved on the backs of others, and it leads to lack of human connection or any of the things that make one truly fulfilled and happy in life, both for the one achieving the goal and those affected in the process. I also much prefer time, human connection, and community over money, power, and status.

Privilege is what allows you to be judged based on your character, not your superficial features. I am 22 and have many diverse exciting ideas about what to do with my life, and, most importantly, I feel like they are all options that could realistically be achieved. In my interactions I generally find people to be good to me and come away thinking good of them. I don’t think I’d be treated in a way as conducive to this experience if I were black/ hispanic/ gay/ lesbian etc.

So, I honestly quite enjoy my SWM privilege. When it comes to the power that comes along with it, however, I will often choose to reject it in favor of simpler, more joyous pursuits.


For the last time, I don’t have a gripe about an article about misogyny. I’m wildly in favor of having this conversation. Why can’t I fight for women to be respected in the comics industry while ALSO pointing out that a journalist very poorly framed what I would consider my own point of view. Why would me saying “generalizations are bad” make me a bad guy? I don’t think you’re actually comprehending what I’m saying.

Count up the sheer number of “but not ALL men” comments that appear here, and on the two comics beat articles. Contrast that with the number of comments that directly discuss MariNaomi’s predicament. Do a little math, and make yourself a pie chart. You’ll see that fully 70% of these comments are about the “straight white guy” comment that Heidi made, and not the situation that MariNaomi found herself in.

Now go back and read MariNaomi’s full account of what happened on the panel. Count up the number of inappropriate things that Lobdell said and did during that panel and after it. The remarks. The touching. The weirdness about her husband, and the apologies to him. All of this in public, with people looking on. All of it taking place in a room full of people who could be influenced by it. Put yourself in her shoes, and imagine Lobdell doing that stuff to you, in front of a crowd, for an excruciating hour.

Now compare the weight of what Lobdell did to the single sentence that Heidi made.

Even if you think that Heidi’s remark was terrible and inappropriate and horrible and that she should flay herself in public because of it – do you really believe that 70% of all the flames should be directed at her, and not at Lobdell? Really?

Come on; you can’t possibly justify continuing the discussion about Heidi’s comment, if not for the reasons everyone has pointed about privilege and oppressed groups and power, then from the point of view of sheer math, the comment doesn’t merit any more time.

@ Steph Mineart

I’ve never said that Heidi’s remarks were terrible, inappropriate or horrible, nor have I suggested that she flay herself. I don’t think she’s evil (actually, I like the beat quite a lot,) I just think she worded something poorly. Is that really that hard for us to all admit?

I think a lot of folks are making comments as if I think it’s stupid to have the article because not all men are misogynists (which is seen quite often during this conversation.) But I’m not saying the article’s existence implies that, I’m saying that the article ACTUALLY implied it.

So yes, I can completely justify continuing the discussion about Heidi’s comment. If we’re discussing how to stomp out harassment, I have a great first step. Don’t alienate people on your side of the argument because they have something in common with the perpetrators. GENERALIZATIONS ARE BAD. It’s not about privilege, it’s about logic.

@Steph Mineart: Check the comment thread on MariNaomi’s actual post: The comments there stay on the topic. When MacDonald reported on MariNaomi’s post, she threw her “joke” into the mix. After MacDonald’s attitude became the topic of commentary at her post, she shut down the comment thread. I don’t think anyone here doesn’t support MariNaomi’s position and I don’t think anyone here thinks MacDonald behaved as badly as Lobdell. I think all the commenters on MariNaomi’s original post, MacDonald’s post, and this post are united on that.
The contentious issue is whether it is OK for women to use examples of awful behavior as opportunities to insult all people who fall into the category “straight men”. As MacDonald doesn’t want to endure comments from those who disagree with her on her site, these people have latched on to this post’s comment thread.
Agreement rarely leads to huge numbers of comments. Contention does. Thus, the numbers you have determined seem appropriate to me.
Furthermore, MacDonald softened her stance on the initial issue in the post that revealed Lobdell’s identity. In that post she termed him a “friend”. After people started flaming the hell out of him for his weak-ass apology, she made a sort of snarky comment (“thank you for playing’) and also closed that comment thread. So you can also partially ascribe the low numbers of Lobdell-flame comments to MacDonald’s obstructions!

” Suppose Lobdell had been sitting next to Mark Waid at that panel about LGBT comics. Would he ignore what Waid was saying and make comments about his appearance instead? Would he ask him if he’s gay?”

Sorry if my comments are retreads but there are a lot of comments hear and I jsut wanted to express my first thought.

Granted I don’t know Scott Lobdell or Mark Waid but I do know a lot of guys that would or could do that and think it was funny. And I know guys who on the receiving end (and not just straight guys put at least one gay man) who would think it was funny and play along.

I am not trying to excuse what happened or what Mr. Lobdell did, but I do think that ignorance plays a big part in how sexism and sexual harassment starts and continues. Most men don’t understand that these kind of jokes do weaken the position of women or can make women seem inferior to men because the idea has never crossed their mind that that is what they were doing. These may be the same jokes men tell in private and they may even be the same jokes men tell with women/homosexuals/etc. that we know and there is no problem.

That is why I think this incidentis interesting as a learning situation. MariNaomi (from what I saw on her site) went out of her way not to name names and to dissuade others from trying to figure out who it was.
Scott figured it out and came forward to Heidi Macdonald whom it sounds like he knows. Heidi made the point that she was a friend of Scott’s and that she had talked to him. Now, hopefully this will be running through the back of Scott’s mind the next time he is dealing with someone he doesn’t know. If not completely “reformed” maybe he is one step closer to realizing what he should and should not say and in what context.

@James V I get that guys do that kind of thing to each other, but this was sitting on the couch watching the game, it was a professional event in public. And one of the points I was making in the post is that it wasn’t just the crude humor, it’s that he was ignoring what she had to say and diverting the conversation when she was trying to make a serious point. It’s not the crudeness of the humor so much as the lack of respect for her as a person with something to say that rankles in this situation.

@James – Yes, some gay men and lesbians also tell dirty jokes and friendly put each other down. I have been in birthday parties with a majority of GLBT folks. But the point is that you joke like that with people you know and feel comfortable with, not with total strangers. Scott Lobdell’s behaviour was, at best, very foolish.

@Steph – Consider thar MariNaomi is married to a guy. I don’t know, her husband may be a bisexual too (and then he would be scott free), but he may also be a dreadful straight guy. Very well, those people making generalizations are actually saying MariNaomi’s husband is complicit with Scott Lobdell, that MariNaomi’s husband is part of the problem. I wonder if MariNaomi herself would go along with this? I also wonder where the “white” came from. As if non-white guys never exhibited misogyny and homophobia.

@Wexter – I feel that being straight and white (or at least not black) are greater social privileges than being male. The place I work in, judges and lawyers are at least 50% female. That may not be true in more male-oriented places, like engineering companies and the comic book industry, but those are behind the times, sadly.

Anyway, I don’t like it that most feminist thinkers put too much emphasis on money and aggression and I’m unsure about the wisdom of idolizing businesswomen and women warriors (just like I’m unsure about businessmen and male warriors). But maybe that is my own bias, I think EVERYBODY, male and female, could benefit from having more of the stereotypical “feminine” traits of intuition, spirituality, empathy, compassion, non-violence, etc.

Sometimes I feel that feminists want to emulate the worst of males. But like I said, that is my bias. Women with leadership and tolerance for cutthroat environments should have the same chances as males, and I just hope that they don’t become intoxicated.

Alright, as a white female (so I’ve got some privilege but not always), lemme try to explain this…

Yes, it sucks to be generalized as part of the problem. I’ve felt that; I’ve wanted to feel like part of the solution and not part of the problem. Sometimes it even gets me upset and I feel isolated from the people I’m supporting.

But it’s not something you are confronted with constantly, as much as it may seem that way to you. You don’t walk down the street while some woman mutters “straight white male” to you. It’s not a part of your daily routine, even outside the Internet, to avoid getting in situations where you might be discriminated against.

What’s lacking is the “big picture”–your problem is a byproduct of a much larger problem. If something makes you feel a little sour for being a white male, it doesn’t hurt for you not to say anything and brush it off, knowing it doesn’t apply to you. Overall, the main message tends to bring more progress than not. And it might give you a tiny glimpse into how it might feel to be discriminated. So feel the burn, and if it frustrates you, channel that into how messed up it is that people have to deal with this stuff day in and day out, and how if you dealt with that, you MIGHT actually assume the worst in others as part of a defense mechanism.

And realize, if you’re a good dude, you’re on our side. For real. Most dudes are awesome dudes. Even Heidi happens to be friends with Scott Lobdell, Tony Harris and Brian Wood. I think it’s safe to say she doesn’t hate the dudes.

And what Steph Mineart said is right on the money. Most debates about discrimination seem to devolve into complaints by the majority or people of power feeling hurt. That should be kind of embarrassing.

Finally, since I was part of the devolution, I wanna say I really love the article, Brigid! It pretty much echoes how I feel. I dunno about “cut the guys a break” and I do think some apologies are not actual apologies, but I do think dudes are cool and most are on our side.

Amy –

Suppose you walk around sticking burning cigarettes into random people’s arms and then explain yourself by saying “Hey, it’s just a little burn, but this way you will have a tiny glimpse of how it feels like to be a burn victim with most of your skin burned off, now you should channel that pain in your arm into joining some organization to help treat burn victims.”

Just try that little stunt and don’t be surprised if people curse at you or even attack you physically for sticking burning cigarettes in their arms, and they won’t listen if you explain that that burn victim over there is suffering a lot more than them with their little burns in their arms.

The more cool-headed about them will tell you that inflicting little burns on innocent people isn’t the best way to help people who have been criminally burned very badly. While others will assume that your explanation is bogus and your actions are just a misdirected petty little revenge that doesn’t solve anything.

“You don’t walk down the street while some woman mutters “straight white male” to you. It’s not a part of your daily routine, even outside the Internet, to avoid getting in situations where you might be discriminated against.”

Thank you, Amy, for describing it so well!

I’m white too, and I didn’t really understand what that meant until I spent some time on the Navajo reservation when I was in my early 20s. Everywhere I went I got an inquisitive look. It wasn’t hostile, exactly, just an odd little frisson, but it was the first time that I was the person who was visibly different, and I realized this must be what black people have to put up with every single day. And right there, a lot of things fell into place for me that I never would have understood if I hadn’t had that experience.

So I realize how hard it is to get this across, and that’s why I’m asking the guys to really listen to what we say (and for God’s sake, stop arguing about Heidi! Enough!). We women aren’t asking for anything more complicated than to be treated with respect and listened to when we speak. If you already do that, thank you. You’re on our side. Now please use your influence to change the handful of habitual offenders.

…I recommend taking it up at her blog.

Well, that’s IF she allows your comment to show up on her blog… Not being a part of the accepted BEATeratti might have its problems if you expect to pop up there and add to the discussion.

Of course, MacDonald shutting off further comments makes it even more problematic.

Bravo for Robot6 for continuing this discussion.

Rene, it seems you feel indignant for having anything negative happen to you as a byproduct (and by that I mean a side effect–unintended) of much, much worse things happening to others. Racism and sexism are absolutely horrible. They make this world bad for everyone; everyone’s a victim. This is true.

But you feeling indignant and making sure everyone knows it, when you are the least affected by this in your life, just shows a lack of empathy, plain and simple.

I’m not one to make “straight white male” comments and I DO think people can take things too far. Hell, me making any comments about things controversial is rare. I’m just saying you should really think about limiting the need to speak out in these situations, because it isn’t about you.

Buuuuuuuuut Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I don’t have a ton to add, but just wanted to thank Brigid for writing this, and folks like Mari Naomi for being brave enough to make these issues public.

I think if guys want to show that they’re not that guy, being supportive when these stories come out is probably the way to go. Insisting that the conversation be about one’s own grievances as a man seems less helpful.

“I think if guys want to show that they’re not that guy, being supportive when these stories come out is probably the way to go. Insisting that the conversation be about one’s own grievances as a man seems less helpful”

Heidi pretty much eliminated the straight white male section of support by making generalizations about that same demographic. Aside from the usual apologists and rabble-rousers, most straight white males would read her article and think “wait, why should I come out in support of what this article says when it just blamed my whole gender and race for it?” This decision on her part only encourages fair-minded folks to dismiss her entire blog post (or the entire blog itself) the way those in her comment section and the comment section here are dismissing the valid points being made because they’re not the salient point of the discussion. Being familiar with typical Beat B.S. and Beat Comment Section chaos, I skipped it and went to the source.

The funny part is if all the people that want the comments to stay on topic and stop complaining about Heidi would mention at some point that “yes, she screwed up and it was wrong” instead of ignoring that fact as if it were irrelevant to the discussion. It’s not, since this article referenced that article and gave the impression that Heidi’s handling of such issues is without fail. So Heidi’s poor handling of the situation IS on topic here and at her own site.

The biggest problem with the blogosphere is it’s full of one-sided arguments because the dissenting opinion always gets shouted down. Nobody wants to give ground. ever.

Good times.

As a straight white male, I can tell you that, as far as I am concerned, that is total, complete, and offensive nonsense. Your assumptions and statements are frankly, far, far more insulting to straight white guys than anything Heidi said. I am repulsed to have you presume to speak for a group of which I’m a part. Please cut it out.

same to you, buddy.

As a non white male, I absolutely took offense to Heidi’s comment. It wasn’t flippant. It wasn’t off the cuff. It is something she has written a few other times as well. In her articles, on her twitter feed. All during times when something of this nature has happened. I’m surprised people aren’t seeing the hypocrisy of it. Heidi is using her power to generalize a group of people. Why is she in power in this case? Because on her site and on twitter during these stories of harassment in the industry, men online and in comment sections are in the minority. They are already in the hot seat because of another individual that they are already put into a subset. So they are easily attacked. Look at all the name calling thrown at Wood and Lobdell on twitter and elsewhere. Look at how easily they are made to be subhuman online. Instead of generalizing why can’t Heidi and others just stick to the individual at hand?

That’s the same thing Heidi is doing. Using her power in this conversation – because she believes she’s in the right – to label and demonize a group of people that can never be right in this conversation. Or at the very least have been lumped in with one other person who does not define the whole.

I’ve seen it far too often in real life: the ease at which people stereotype – even in jest – when someone from the group being targeted is standing right there. So when people support Heidi’s claim or agree that it was flippant it just adds fuel to the fire and negates that her comment is just as hurtful and just as distracting.

@Mikael: I’m sorry you took offense at Heidi’s comment. I didn’t make it. This is not the place to discuss it.

I understand—we all understand, I think—that stereotyping is bad and dehumanizes the other. However, there is a difference in degree here. Heidi’s single, flippant comment, made on her blog—not here—to an audience she assumes will take it in context as a joke and not a manifesto, is simply not the same as what Lobdell did. She made one flip comment on the internet. He singled out someone, because she was female (and maybe because she was a bi female) and derailed a conversation about her work to focus on her sexuality, in what was supposed to be a professional event. That’s what we are talking about here. Not how hard it is to be a straight white male. Anyone who wants to set up a conversation lounge about that, feel free, but that’s not what this post is about.

Furthermore, Wood and Lobdell aren’t being called names on Twitter because they are straight white males. They are being called names because of what they did. Read the posts. Both of them were sexist and unprofessional. I don’t think they should be dehumanized because of it—that’s what my last graf was about—but their behavior was out of bounds and deserves to be criticized. I think (I hope) they both get that now.

“He singled out someone, because she was female (and maybe because she was a bi female) and derailed a conversation about her work to focus on her sexuality, in what was supposed to be a professional event.”

That’s not representative of what happened. Her work is about her sexuality. By her own account, it’s “a graphic memoir about my sex life as a teenager.” His comments were not a derailment but in fact on topic. Similar to how you think discussing Heidi’s faux pas in her blog is off topic here. It’s not. You referenced her and her blog post in your blog post here, so what she said is fair game for discussion. I get that you don’t want it to be, but you could have considered that before specifically including it as an article of reference.

Lobdell behaved in a very juvenile frat boy sort of way. Neither his nor Wood’s behavior was sexist. Unprofessional? Absolutely. Of course Lobdell singled her out because she is a woman. He was obviously flirting with her. It was poorly done and unwelcomed, but it wasn’t sexual harassment or sexist. His apology to the husband and not to her was obviously because you don’t apologize to a married woman for flirting with her but you had better apologize to her husband who you now know was watching you do it the whole time.

Wood and Lobdell definitely deserve to be criticized for their behavior because it was definitely out of bounds, but it also doesn’t fit within the bounds of the labels some folks have put on it.

“Heidi’s single, flippant comment[…]is simply not the same as what Lobdell did.”

On the whole, you are correct. There are some similarities though. But yes, they are of different degrees of wrong. Only one of them has since apologized, though.

1 [rude!]) Gee, guys (except Berlatsky), I guess the MacDonald apologists are right. Let’s just let it go. After all, she was just being a woman! And we know how THEY are…
The overall message: Don’t belittle women by ignoring their personhood, but also don’t hold them to the same standards of responsibility. You know, like children.

2 [not rude!]) And, @ our host (who has indeed been gracious to let this all continue): All the MacDonald controversy came here because her posts preceded yours and then she shut down discussion at those posts. Some people who have followed The Beat for years due to the volume of interesting comic-related information on it have strong negative opinions of MacDonald. I am one of those people. These opinions were formed by her habitual sniping at hetmales-who-aren’t-her-close-personal-friends, among other things. Her post on the Lobdell/MariNaomi incident did bring news of the incident to an audience that wouldn’t have heard about it otherwise, but all she really added to MariNaomi’s account was her bullshit comment. Indeed, I had to read the MariNaomi post to understand that Lobdell was a true asshole! Her cliquemeister response to the perp’s identity (He’s a good friend of mine, so let’s all calm down) only fueled the MacDonald haters’ fires. Right after she shut down the conversation threads, your (much better) post went up. Thus we found a forum, rightly or wrongly. Thank you for your gracious behavior in the face of this derailment of your intent.

@NotAStrawMan OK, I started this comment with something else but I decided it wasn’t constructive and deleted it. But let me just say that I find your defense of the apology to the husband pretty offensive. As for the rest of your comment:

Read MariNaomi’s account of the panel and think about the possible outcomes. Do you think, given her account of the dialogue, that there was any chance that they were going to end up having a cozy dinner together? He wasn’t flirting. He was just being a smartass at her expense.

Furthermore, flirtation is a two-way street. Most adults know to drop it if they don’t get a response. If you are doing it inappropriately, in a professional situation, you might even say “I’m sorry if I offended you.” You don’t keep it up relentlessly when it’s clear it’s not welcome—unless you’re a creep.

There are a lot of creeps out there. This is what we are trying to talk about. This is the thing that happens to so many women, over and over again: You’re doing your work, you’re trying to be taken seriously, and then you are bullied by some guy, and then you are told that it’s not bullying, it’s not sexist, it’s not sexual harassment. But it is. We know it is when we are going through it, and guys who defend or dismiss it just make things worse.

Honestly, I think that most guys don’t get it because they would never dream of doing this and they don’t understand why anyone would—it’s just beyond their comprehension. But please respect the fact that women do experience it (and men do too, although less frequently) and that it is indeed something to be taken seriously and discussed, not dismissed.

Thank you for this post. While the women who were harrased have a legit motiv for being mad, being mad does not change things,in some cases they seem to exarcevate them. Some are fast to point fingers and eager to pass judgement on Lobdell and Wood as if that would undo what they have done or prevent them from doing again. I think thats irresponsible, being that kind of judge. For what its worth, to me it is not about them ( Lodbell and Wood and the jury) it is about me: is it possible I’ve done the same thing? You know, being a “charm”, “funny” and so full of myself that I failed to notice (to listen!) that I was being a creep to a woman? Should I apologize to somebody I was oblivious that I may have offended in any way? And, just because its possible that I’ve acted like a moron, now I realize I have to listen, really listen to people around me; be more aware of my own behaviour anywhere, anytime. And I will pass the advice to whomever I consider because I am 100% positive I want the guys who work with my girlfriend to take note of this, or those who work with my sister or those around anybody I actually care about.
I’m afraid that those seeking somekind of punishment to the harrasers are missing the point: any “normal” person can potentially harrase someone else. The question is: am I diferent? Can I be 100% certain that I’ve not done that, or that I am not capable of doing that? This evil starts by, as pointed out in the post, NOT listening. Those guys have been outed and I hope they are learning a lesson from this, but I cant oblige them; after reflection I notice I my have acted like them once, no matter when or were, I may be no better than them and I am ashamed. What I can do is think about my actual behaviour and pay attention and be carefull with other people feelings, you know, and with that, maybe, improve the situation for those around me.
Since the Wood outing I’ve been reflecting lots on this, A LOT. I dont know what to recomend to women anymore, I really hate this things happen to you, but I can tell you what I’ll do: I’ll LISTEN, anywere, anytime to anybody: I’ll be on asshole prevention permanently.

“@NotAStrawMan OK, I started this comment with something else but I decided it wasn’t constructive and deleted it. But let me just say that I find your defense of the apology to the husband pretty offensive.”

It’s not a defense. I don’t have anything to defend. It’s a hypothetical explanation. It’s my interpretation of what happened. You can be offended, but I wasn’t being offensive. He wasn’t apologizing to her husband for his unwelcomed advances because he was too self-involved to notice that this was the case. We’re all that self-involved at times. We all treat others in absent-minded ways that irritate them when that was not our intent. He apologized to the husband for flirting with his wife in front of him which is disrespectful. He then apologized to MariNaomi when he discovered that his flirtations had caused her discomfort. He apologized for that discomfort which is all that is necessary from his point of view. I’m insulted that you’re offended by this. If I piss off my girlfriend even though I feel like what she’s pissed off about is nothing I need to apologize for, I’ll just apologize for pissing her off. She does it to me too. I think, as a species, all humans do it. I think he should have apologized for being an obnoxious blowhard that directed some unwanted flirtations toward a fellow professional. He has apologized for the latter but not the former because he likely doesn’t see himself as an obnoxious blowhard. I think it’s a fair compromise.

And what’s even worse is that you are taking issue with a defense of an apology(which isn’t want I had done). Apologies don’t need to be defended. they’re, by definition, contrition for an offense. They don’t need to be defended. All I was saying was at that time he was unaware that he had done anything to apologize TO MariNaomi FOR. What I had said was “you don’t apologize to a woman for flirting with her” which is not the same as not apologizing to a woman for unwelcomed flirting…which SHOULD be done, always.

“Read MariNaomi’s account of the panel and think about the possible outcomes. Do you think, given her account of the dialogue, that there was any chance that they were going to end up having a cozy dinner together?”

See, that’s the thing…given “HER account.” Given her account, obviously not. If also given Lobdell’s entire life experience and his POV of what happened, maybe. I would say he WAS flirting, AND being a smartass…but not at her expense. I don’t think he was aware that she was suffering in any way during any of his hijinks. She describes the incident with the microphone as if he only said that to her because she was a woman, but from her drawing the microphone is directly in front of her. Why would he direct that comment at anyone else? And it also further illustrates my viewpoint that had that happened in an all straight male panel about superhero comics instead of a co-ed LGBT panel he STILL would have made that suggestion to guy directly behind that mic….because it’s typical frat boy humor, and when it happens to straight guys it’s not taken personally or as sexual harassment. This disconnect is why women entering a typically male-dominated field think they’re being targeted and sexually harassed when they’re not. Granted, sometimes they are. I’m talking about when they’re not. And not all women have the same sense of humor…some women don’t feel like they’re being sexually harassed in those situations. One can never tell, which is why my choice is to not make those jokes until I’m sure how the other person will take it.

I don’t know why you think it matters what we all think the outcome could have been as a result of his behavior. It only matters what he and MariNaomi think could have happened, and they are two diametrically opposed viewpoints. But Lobdell didn’t know that in the moment.

“Furthermore, flirtation is a two-way street. Most adults know to drop it if they don’t get a response. If you are doing it inappropriately, in a professional situation, you might even say “I’m sorry if I offended you.” You don’t keep it up relentlessly when it’s clear it’s not welcome—unless you’re a creep. ”

again, you’re saying this from MariNaomi’s account of the situation. There are 3 sides to every story. And a lot of the time flirtation is a one way street on both sides. It usually takes a while to figure it out, and unfortunately entertainment has given the impression that just because a woman slaps you in the face for what you’re doing or saying she could be making out with you passionately a second later. Real life isn’t like that, but I can’t speak for everyone’s experiences. And you’re not taking into account ANY of Lobdell’s POV.

“There are a lot of creeps out there. This is what we are trying to talk about”

No, you’re talking about Scott Lobdell and MariNaomi. Lobdell isn’t a creep. He’s a man who misread a situation and made unwelcomed advances which he later found out to have been so and since apologized. But to the folks around the comment sections here and elsewhere, that’s not good enough… he has to be a creep, and a sexist or misogynist guilty of sexual harassment. It has to be what you say and everyone else is an apologist for bad behavior or an enabler of such behavior and by association a fellow misogynistic creep. It’s not enough that we agree he behaved badly but we have to agree he behaved exactly how you think he behaved, and by continuing to push that stance you damage your argument. “You” being a general group and not you specifically unless it applies to you. It applies to Heidi. Her opinion is worthless which is why I dismissed her blog and went straight to MariNaomi’s. Her comment should have been condemned instead of exalted by you and everyone else.

“This is the thing that happens to so many women, over and over again: You’re doing your work, you’re trying to be taken seriously, and then you are bullied by some guy, and then you are told that it’s not bullying, it’s not sexist, it’s not sexual harassment. But it is. We know it is when we are going through it, and guys who defend or dismiss it just make things worse. ”

It isn’t always exactly the way you think it is. Women who continue to insist something is sexual harassment when it isn’t just make things worse and weaken the position of women that are actually being sexually harassed.

“But please respect the fact that women do experience it (and men do too, although less frequently) and that it is indeed something to be taken seriously and discussed, not dismissed.”

I do respect that fact, and it should definitely be taken seriously and discussed and not dismissed…but it’s not always sexual harassment, and that fact should also be respected. Believing you’ve been sexually harassed is not proof that you’ve been sexually harassed, and your personal account of what happened will not always be met with universal agreement with your interpretation. And by disagreeing with that interpretation a person is not dismissing your feelings an experiences. Outside of this particular topic, how many times do people say things or have things said to them when the reaction of who it was said to has resulted in the speaker saying “I didn’t mean it LIKE THAT?” I’d wager that it happens quite often. Sexual harassment is a conscious act, but making someone uncomfortable with your words and actions is often a thoughtless act. That’s why I’m saying Lobdell didn’t sexually harass MariNaomi. His behavior should not have been met with the scarlet letter treatment of sexual harassment but the basic grade school lesson of think before you speak and keep your hands to yourself. Heidi should get a refresher course on this as well.

Your interpretation of my comments and opinions may cause you to be offended or insulted, but I am neither being offensive nor insulting. I am not a defender of bad behavior, and at no point did I ever say what Lobdell or Wood did was “okay.” I only ever said it wasn’t what you (again, a general “you”) were saying it was. At no point did I see a female say what Heidi had said was inappropriate either, but I’m not running around calling all women enabling misandrists over it.

Scott Lobdell did not sexually harass MariNaomi and therefor doesn’t need to apologize for that. He did behave badly and apologized to two different people for different reasons. If that’s not good enough for you, then that’s just tough luck and you’re being unreasonable. Everything else is just noise, including my own contributions. It is what it is…and what it isn’t is sexual harassment, sexism, or misogyny.

“which is not the same as not apologizing to a woman for unwelcomed flirting…which SHOULD be done, always. ”

meaning it should always be apologized for. not sure if that was clear.

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