Tag Archives: harassment

On Chris Hardwick, Comic Conventions, and the Presumption of Innocence

(Trigger Warning for discussions of rape, abuse, sexual assault,etc)

In this article I’m going to attempt to deconstruct what’s happening around allegations of sexual harassment and abuse in various areas of nerddom. Rather than try to prosecute the facts of each individual case, I want to talk about systems and how we got to this point, and what we can do about it.

“Innocent until proven guilty.”
“There are two sides and we can’t know.”
“Rush to judgment.”
Chris Hardwick. FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention#metoo

It is as predictable as the sun rising in the east that whenever there is an allegation of harassment, rape, abuse, or other predatory behavior that these are the responses we’ll hear first. So let’s talk about these ideas and where they fit in with our current cultural conversation.

First (and this may surprise you I’m starting here) these are good standards. They have served us well in western civilization because they are standards with specific intents.

For instance, it’s ENTIRELY VITAL that in the criminal justice system, a person have a complete presumption of innocence. It is the government’s job to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury of your peers that you committed a crime in order for you to be deprived of your freedom or property by being put in jail or having to pay a fine. In the case of the law, innocent until proven guilty is sacrosanct. Hence, the legal proceedings against Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, etc.

But then there’s the court of public opinion. Who says that in this case a person must be given the presumption of innocence? Does literally anything else get this same standard? Does science? (I wish, right?)

No. Because that’s not how it works. So why should what is appropriate for due process in a criminal case be applied in the case of a victim coming forward? Do we apply other similar legalisms in our daily lives?

And so then a lot of people will say, when all the evidence comes out, it comes down to a “he said / she said” situation (or another variation based on the genders of the people involved– as abuse and harassment occur among all people — but in this case I’ll keep with the colloquial “he said / she said” because we’re talking about specific instances of alleged abuse).

The end point of this, though, is that a person is supposed to throw up their hands and just say “Well, I guess we can’t know. There’s two sides to this story and the only people who know are the two of them.” It’s the societal equivalent of a hung jury– we just don’t know — OR an acquittal where we say the victim never proved their claim beyond some standard of reasonable doubt.

So, what happens? The net effect of “innocent until proven guilty” and “two sides” is that the accused is always advantaged. There is a seriously high bar to overcome to be able to prove an allegation– and the more prominent and powerful a person is, the higher that bar gets.

And so we wonder why victims are afraid to come forward? BECAUSE OF THIS. Because prima facie we are conditioned to not believe them. Because it’s important to understand that “innocent until proven guilty” and “two sides” are systems created by western patriarchal order specifically for the judicial system — which have served us well in terms of balancing government tyranny vs law and order — but which do NOT protect victims and were never created for society at large. Using legal standards in place of a broader sense of morality and justice is not only foolhardy– it’s why Jesus hated lawyers. (Apologies to my friends in the legal profession. Jesus loves you very much.)

We face an epidemic of rape and sexual assault– 1 in 4 women will be assaulted. That is sickening and MUST change. But rape cases are unlikely to be prosecuted because we have to convince a jury of 12 individuals a rapist is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Get ONE person on that jury who holds sexist attitudes about “She was leading him on.” “She was wearing the wrong clothing.” etc, etc, etc and the accused will not be punished. Get a judge who believes we shouldn’t ruin a person’s life over one mistake, and the person will not be punished. Innocent until proven guilty is a high bar. And is it intentionally so, because the basis of our law is “It is better for 1,000 guilty men to go free than one innocent man be punished.” Emphasis on “men.”

It is the systems of presumption of innocence and hearing both sides that have created the situation we are in. They were tools of a patriarchal western culture which, intentionally or not, have always advantaged men over women. They are the petri dish in which rape culture flourished and grew. And we will not, to paraphrase Audre Lorde, be able to tear down the master’s house using the master’s tools. And so “presumed innocent” and “both sides” will never get us the justice we need.

JFK wrote “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” We have made solving these cases nearly impossible through our criminal justice system. And so instead we have to turn to the callout, the public shaming– the vague article on Medium that doesn’t directly name your accuser but we all know who you’re talking about. These are also imperfect systems, but they’re basically all we have.

Government is supposed to have a monopoly on the use of violence in society. And shunning, isolation, shaming– those are acts of violence. It’s why we should react so viscerally to The Scarlet Letter, The Handmaid’s Tale, to women being beheaded for adultery or acid thrown in their faces– BECAUSE extra-governmental forces (in these cases, religion masquerading as law or individuals acting under a faux religious mandate) are enacting violence. Also, government is not acting as it should with the necessary due process. And the violence is horrific. But even in the more subtle violence of these– the shame circles, the public labeling — we see what we don’t like about callout culture. Because it is a form of mob justice, and one which does not have norms or rules around it.

hmt_101_gk_0916_0017_f-e1492090786905

And because they can be misused, people are skeptical, and begin trying to rationalize against it. And we retreat back to “innocent until proven guilty” and “he said / she said”– all of which serve to protect the accused and indict the victim. And, it should be noted, the closer you are to a person who is accused, the more you might depend on them for something, the less likely you are to believe they are capable of this. And so we say, “we don’t want to harm someone over unfounded allegations.”

Some have even called this “the internet lynch mob.” Let’s unpack that for one second. Thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of people, mostly African Americans, were lynched in the US. People were murdered. It was done to incite terror and uphold white supremacy. For me, it rings just as hollow to talk about women working to stop sexual violence — especially when it is women of color (and queer women of color) who are the largest victims of sexual violence and harassment in the US — as a “lynch mob” as it does for Richard Paul Evans to talk about being a white male being like a Jew during Nazi Germany. It rings hollow because it destroys the historical paradigm of oppressor and victim and flips it on its head– now the historical victims of oppression are suddenly the bad guys? And to talk about someone being called out for bad behavior as being morally equivalent to taking someone’s life? Spare me.

Because it harms literally no one to believe a victim when they come forward. What will the consequences be for Chris Hardwick? At most, it will be a loss of reputation which will almost certainly be temporary.

Chris Brown is still making albums. So is Dr. Luke. It’s unlikely that even if they lose their civil suits they will be living on the streets, having lost everything. Devin Faraci, who was accused of assault, got a job with Alamo Drafthouse/ Fantastic Fest less than a year after the allegations came out against him — and he would have continued in that role if it had not been exposed. Even Bill O’Reilly is mounting a comeback tour. So let’s not pretend that people are going to be ruined.

For those not following the controversy around sexual assault and harassment at Salt Lake FanX (previously Salt Lake Comic Con– the third largest con in the country by attendance after San Diego and New York) here is a primer. But it’s bad. If the con’s owners, Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenberg, were to sell Salt Lake FanX or convert it into a non-profit (as many of their critics are calling for, pointing to toxic behavior on their part as well), they stand to gain more than can be imagined– and more than they stand to lose if they continue to let this drip drip drip continue about the harassment and abuse they have covered up. If we choose too believe the victims who have stepped forward, they will still be millionaires no matter what. Same with Hardwick.

So, again, it DOES NOTHING to simply believe victims when they come forward. In fact, every argument of “innocent until proven guilty” and “hear both sides” insulates abusers and harassers. It prevents victims from coming forward because they know the people around the accused will rally around them and prosecute the victim– call her unreliable, question her motives, ask why she didn’t just leave the situation in the first place (obviously you have no idea how abusers operate and can’t see the pathological ways they all work).

In the case of gaslightng or calling into question the accuracy or motives of victims, above all others, there is actual harm perpetrated against people who have already been victimized when we choose to hide behind “we can’t know” or “innocent until proven guilty” or “the internet lynch mob.”

There is a massive change trying to happen in our culture right now. There are people who have been oppressed in order for us to make the progress we’ve made. There are people who are still disadvantaged by the status quo. Our choice is whether we decide to side with the status quo as “good enough” or whether we want to break down systems of oppression and side with the disadvantaged. And if you’ve decided to stay neutral in this fight, or ignore it and pretend it isn’t happening, you’ve already chosen a side.

Believe victims. It doesn’t harm anyone, except the patriarchy.

Stan Lee Accused of Sexual Harassment But Responds That It’s a “Shakedown”

Stan Lee is the latest comic industry professional accused of sexual harassment and misconduct against the nurses who worked at his Hollywood home.

Allegations include Lee groping women, requesting oral sex, and strolling around in the nude on front of them.

The nursing company that employs the women is in a legal dispute with Lee but no police complaint has been made and no lawsuits filed.

A lawyer representing Lee has said that Lee “categorically denies” the “false and despicable” allegations and intends to clear his “stellar good name.” There’s also hints that the accusations are part of a shakedown.

An anonymous source said:

Stan is an old man who has seemingly lost his way.

He doesn’t seem to care what people think of him, he’s lost his filter. There has been a stream of young nurses coming to his house in West Hollywood and he has been sexually harassing them. He finds it funny.

He walks around naked and is vulgar towards the women, he asks them for oral sex in the shower and wants to be pleasured in his bedroom. He uses the word p***y and f**k in their presence.

He’s also very handsy and has groped some of the women, it’s unacceptable behavior, especially from an icon like Stan.

The owner at the nursing company has openly said to people that Stan has sexually harassed every single nurse that has been to the house. That got back to Lee and sparked this whole thing.

It appears the owner, who has nursed Stan herself, eventually decided enough was enough.

The nursing company ended their relationship with Lee towards the end of last year.

Lee’s attorney Tom Lallas sent a cease and desist to the owner of the nursing firm in December.

In a statement, Lallas said:

Mr. Lee categorically denies these false and despicable allegations and he fully intends to fight to protect his stellar good name and impeccable character.

We are not aware of anyone filing a civil action, or reporting these issues to the police, which for any genuine claim would be the more appropriate way for it to be handled.

Instead, Mr. Lee has received demands to pay money and threats that if he does not do so, the accuser will go to the media.

Mr Lee will not be extorted or blackmailed, and will pay no money to anyone because he has done absolutely nothing wrong.

A new visiting nurse firm working with Lee and has said he has been “polite, kind and respectful” as well as “it has been a privilege to care for him.”

We’ll continue to update as more is learned.

(via the Daily Mail)

Stories of Nathan Edmondson’s Behavior Begin to Come Forward (Updated)

A little over two years ago we covered the allegations and rumors regarding comic writer Nathan Edmondson. Harassment, sexual harassment, unprofessional dealings with other creators were all recounted either first or second hand directly to us and since we ran that original article more accounts have been told to us of negative first hand dealings.

The difficulty of reporting in that original article was the second hand nature of the behavior and the first hand accounts weren’t inclined for their stories to be told or included. Things look to be changing.

Writer and editor Stephanie Cooke has stood up with her account and has gone on record with her interactions with Edmondson at a convention in North Carolina “several years back.” Those interactions can only be described as toxic and predatory.

Read her account below:

Writer Elizabeth Amber Love responded with her own encounter with Edmondson.

Both of these accounts are in line with what we’ve been told over the years and ends the hearsay and rumors with first hand accounts.

We’ve reached out to Edmondson for comment.

Update: Comic writer Joseph Keatinge corroborate’s Stephanie’s account.

Space Goat’s Shon Bury the Latest Comic Professional Outed for Abuse

Former Space Goat Productions community manager Amelia Thompson has gone to Twitter to reveal the “terrible” treatment of employees by company founder Shon Bury.

Thompson describes an office environment full of verbal abuse and sexist remarks. Below are her Tweets on the subject but other former employees responded to them with their own negative experiences.

Bleeding Cool received the following statement from Thompson:

There are two things I want people to know.

The first, I have the full support of both of my past Space Goat supervisors. They helped me edit every tweet for grammar and clarity. My ex-coworkers have been immensely supportive through all of this, two even resigning after I collected my things on Monday, Nov. 27. They expressed that the way I was treated after my resignation was unacceptable.

The second, I’m taking some time to recover and handle this media explosion while out of a job. If supporters wanted to aid me beyond just retweets, my paypal is on my twitter. I’m worried about making bills the next couple months but I just couldn’t let my friends or myself be hurt any longer.

Others supported Thompson’s experience. The Moonlighters team of Cal Moray and Katie Schenkel also spoke of issues.

The team behind Monster Elementary also tweeted support as well as issues with late payments and just payment issues in general as well as accounting issues.

The Space Goat Publishing Twitter account Tweeted an apology.

This was after a different story in a deleted Tweet.

Bury also released a statement to Bleeding Cool:

I can’t apologize enough for this entire situation. I deeply regret that I fostered an environment where a smart person like Amelia felt uncomfortable working under my direct management–and that she felt even less comfortable bringing up her concerns until she resigned. It has been my design since I opened the doors at Space Goat 12 years ago to create a workplace where smart, talented, young people can come to work and learn the craft of comic books. Amelia is exactly the type of capable young employee publishers should be looking to bring into their organization and to build up. I had thought I had created that environment for my staff, but the daily stress of running a graphic-novel and board-game publishing company at the tempo we have been running became visible to all around me over the last several months. This isn’t on anyone else in my organization but me. This is squarely, 100% on me.

My inability to regulate my frustration during this period poisoned the very environment I had set out to create. I behaved poorly and I failed miserably at one of the core tenets of why I even want to be in business. I will always deeply regret losing Amelia, and am ashamed of how poorly I handled her resignation. I am taking immediate action to resolve this flaw within myself starting today with counseling and anger-management classes. Nothing is more important to me than the culture and community we are trying to create. I won’t let anyone stand in the way of achieving those goals. Not even myself.

(via The Outhouse)

Around the Tubes

It’s Thanksgiving here at GP HQ and not to sound too cheesy but thank you all for visiting our site and helping keep it going all these years. We have a full day of news coming at you, no rest for the holiday! And we’re kicking that off with a fresh round of news from around the web.

The Beat – Marvel Watch: Joe Quesada steps in to smooth Cebulski transition, including interviews – Except an interview with us. No way that’ll happen. Publishers are scared for us to interview their CEOs and EICs.

The Beat – Five more women accuse Berganza of sexual harassment – The tip of the iceberg.

Kotaku – Marvel Heroes Developer Gazillion Apparently Lays Off Everyone On Thanksgiving Eve – What assholes.

 

Reviews

Talking Comics – Aquaman #30

CBR – Doomsday Clock #1

Newsarama – Doomsday Clock #1

Atomic Junk Shop – Illuminati Transport

ICv2 – Riverdale Vol. 1

Harassment in the Comics Industry. We Talk to a Lawyer. Listen on Demand.

On demand: iTunes ¦ Sound Cloud¦ Stitcher ¦ BlogTalkRadio ¦ Listed on podcastdirectory.com

Harassment is a long standing crisis in the comics industry — and despite brave voices speaking out, rarely have harassers suffered any consequences. Mainstream reporting on the open secret of sexual harasser Eddie Berganza has finally lead to his firing and now more stories of harassment are coming to light. We think it’s time to talk to a lawyer– an employee rights attorney. We’ll not only be discussing some of the high profile harassment cases in the comic industry but also what folks need to know in their every day workplace.

Joining Graphic Policy Radio is Paula Brantner a Senior Advisor for Workplace Fairness.

Paula Brantner is the Senior Advisor to Workplace Fairness, after serving as Executive Director (2008-2016) and Program Director (2003 to 2007) writing legal content for the Webby-nominated site www.workplacefairness.org, and developing products for WF’s social enterprise program, 0.1.2.3. In 2016, she founded PB Work Solutions, LLC, to counsel and coach workers in toxic workplaces and consult and advise on workplace issues and nonprofit strategy. An employment lawyer for 25 years, Paula has degrees from UC-Hastings College of the Law and Michigan State University’s James Madison College. She is a former co-coordinator for NetSquaredDC and a retired DC Rollergirl. She volunteers at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, travels around the world to see pandas.


Resources

Workplace Fairness

CoWorker.org

Freelancers Union

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Harassment in the Comics Industry. We Talk to a Lawyer. Listen in LIVE this Monday.

Harassment is a long standing crisis in the comics industry — and despite brave voices speaking out, rarely have harassers suffered any consequences. Mainstream reporting on the open secret of sexual harasser Eddie Berganza has finally lead to his firing and now more stories of harassment are coming to light. We think it’s time to talk to a lawyer– an employee rights attorney. We’ll not only be discussing some of the high profile harassment cases in the comic industry but also what folks need to know in their every day workplace.

Joining Graphic Policy Radio is Paula Brantner a Senior Advisor for Workplace Fairness.

Listen in LIVE this Monday at 10pm ET while we discuss this important topic.

Paula Brantner is the Senior Advisor to Workplace Fairness, after serving as Executive Director (2008-2016) and Program Director (2003 to 2007) writing legal content for the Webby-nominated site www.workplacefairness.org, and developing products for WF’s social enterprise program, 0.1.2.3. In 2016, she founded PB Work Solutions, LLC, to counsel and coach workers in toxic workplaces and consult and advise on workplace issues and nonprofit strategy. An employment lawyer for 25 years, Paula has degrees from UC-Hastings College of the Law and Michigan State University’s James Madison College. She is a former co-coordinator for NetSquaredDC and a retired DC Rollergirl. She volunteers at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, travels around the world to see pandas.

Listen in this Monday.

Around the Tubes

It’s new comic book day! What’s everyone getting? What are you excited about? Sound off in the comments! While you wait for shops to open, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

The Outhouser – With Industry Focused On Eddie Berganza, Marvel Hires Ron Richards – For fucks sake!

CBR – Rotten Tomatoes Delays Justice League Score – We’ll have our review soon!

Kotaku – Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2: The Kotaku Review – Who’s getting it?

 

Reviews

ICv2 – Dennis the Menace Vol. 3: Dennis the Menace in Hawaii HC

The Outhousers – Elektra: Always Bet on Red

Eddie Berganza Has Been Suspended

An email has been sent out from DC Entertainment that Group Editor Eddie Berganza has been suspended and removed from performing his duties.

Berganza has once again been at the center of past harassment at the comics publisher. Buzzfeed published an in-depth article on Friday which reignited the discussion about the lack of action on DC’s part leading to a new round of coverage as well as creators and more adding their voice and concerns over the continued employment of the individual.

The email is below:

Statement from DC Entertainment regarding Eddie Berganza

DC Entertainment has immediately suspended Mr. Berganza and has removed him from performing his duties as Group Editor at DC Comics. There will be a prompt and yet careful review into next steps as it relates to the allegations against him, and the concerns our talent, employees and fans have shared. DC continues to be extremely committed to creating a safe and secure working environment for our employees and everyone involved in the creation of our comic books.

Thanks to Those Speaking Out. We Support You.

Many within the comics industry are taking a stand and speaking out against harassment and the continued protection of those who engage in it. One reason individuals don’t speak out is over fear that they will be blacklisted and not supported by publishers (and fans). So, along with our vocally supporting these creators we as a community need to also show we also have their back financially.

This isn’t a complete list so please add individuals missed in the comments below.


Sophie Campbell is quoted in the recent Buzzfeed article as have turned down Supergirl due to editor Eddie Berganza. That’s beyond stand-up and shows true conviction. Check out her work on Jem and the Holograms, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Wet Moon, and more.

Joshua Hale Fialkov is a writer who worked with DC on the series I, Vampire (among others). He reportedly left the company over a disagreement about killing Green Lantern John Stewart. He’s written awesome series like The Bunker, Tumor, The Life After, and most recently Jeff Steinberg: Champion of Earth.

Kwanza Osajyefo is one of the creators behind the recently released in trade paperback Black. Not only is he outspoken but also a target for degenerate comic “fans” who only want to take us backwards. That hasn’t stopped him down from speaking out.

Christopher Sebela is the writer behind the upcoming Cold War from AfterShock Comics, Heartthrob, We(l)come Back, High Crimes, and more.

Tony Isabella is one of the co-creators of Black Lightning for DC Comics. Maybe grab one of his classic trades to prepare for the new CW television show or the recent Black Lighting: Cold Dead Hands #1.

Jennifer de Guzman has been one of the most outspoken individuals when it comes to harassment in the comics industry. She’s written for numerous comics (like Womanthology: Space) and prose as well as a journalist. Buy her stuff and hire her!

Lilah Sturges is a writer of comics and fantasy novels having written Jack of Fables for Vertigo. You can also check out her work on Everafter.

Jonathan H. Gray is an artist who has done work on Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Universe, Mega Man, as well as numerous work for Disney Comics.

Matthew Rosenberg is a comic writer who has published indie comics and also worked for Marvel and Archie. He was also part of the DC Writers Workshop Class of 2016. Go check out his 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank which was recently released as a trade paperback.

Kate Leth is a creator who has worked for Marvel, Dark Horse, BOOM!, Dynamite, IDW, and Image. Whatever you buy to support her, it’s going to be good.

Tamra Bonvillain is a colorist who has worked for DC, Marvel, Image and more on such titles as Doom Patrol, Wayward, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Uncanny Avengers, and more.

Colleen Doran spoke out, blew the whistle and was thrown under the bus. Lots of fantastic work including Sandman from DC Comics’ Vertigo written by…

Neil Gaiman who clearly has Doran’s back…

Tea Terry Blue is a digital project manager at King Features Syndicate, a co-editor of RAW Fanthology, and overall comic nerd. Go follow them since there’s tons of other folks speaking out too that Tea is spotlighting.

Ryan Ferrier has written comics such as D4ve, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, WWE, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and more.


That’s a lot of folks to support and I’m sure I’ve missed tons. So, please add on in the comments below and go support those wonderful folks.

« Older Entries