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The Truth About Gamergate

SimAnt_SNES_boxYou might have heard about Gamergate. Its been in the news quite a bit lately, getting a lot of coverage from the mainstream media. But, those articles overlook the history of the term, which actually traces back to 1983, and was used in literature in 1984.

The term “gamergate” didn’t begin with Adam Baldwin’s Tweet about Quinnspiracy two months ago. The term didn’t begin two years ago concerning Rhode Island and 38 Studios either. Actually the term is a scientific term having to do with ants. Yes, ants.

In 1983 geneticist William L. Brown coined the term, and first appeared in scientific literature used by entomologists. The term actual means:

mated, egg-laying worker

The term is derived from the Greek words γάμος (gámos) and ἐργάτης (ergátēs) and means “married worker.” Say what?

Yes, gamergate is a term having to do with female worker ants that are reproductively viable. When an ant colony lacks a queen, what’s a colony to do? Well, this. A gamergate is a female ant that helps as a reproducer for their colony.

It’s about specific types of colonies of ants, some of which are actually queenless. Instead one worker, or a group of them, have active ovaries. Yup, for the colony to survive, the ant colony must rely upon the female ants.

This gamergate also has controversy attached to it. Some feel that the term “worker” should be applied to only ants that are part of the non-reproductive caste, while “queen” should be applied to all reproductively viable female ants.

It’s actually pretty fascinating stuff, and you can learn more here or the many scientific papers on the subject.

What does this have to do with this site? Absolutely nothing, I just learned all this last night, and found it a pretty fascinating look at a matriarchal society.

Around the Tubes

The weekend is almost here! I’m spending it doing some geeking, and hopefully catching up on some comics.

Around the Tubes

Slate – Misogyny Is Not Human Nature – Hrm…


Around the Tubes Reviews

Talking Comics – Aliens: Fire and Stone #1

CBR – Amazing Spider-Man #1.5

CBR – Armor Hunters #4

Talking Comics – Armor Hunters #4

Comic Vine – Batman Eternal #25

Comic Vine – Butterfly #1

Talking Comics – Butterfly #1

Comic Vine – Dash #1

Talking Comics – Edge of Spider-Verse #3

Talking Comics – G.I. Joe Vol. 4 #1

Comic Vine – Harley Quinn: Futures End #1

Comic Vine – Magneto #10

Flickering Myth – Roche Limit #1

Comic Vine – Roche Limit #1

Talking COmics – Roche Limit #1

Comic Vine – Secret Avengers #8

Star Trek Boldly Goes to Racism, Homophobia, Sexism, and Rape

roddenberry diversityA Change.org petition has been launched urging CBS and StarTrek.com to clean up their act and moderate their official Facebook page for Star Trek. With close to 3.4 million the page is rife with racist, homophobic, and sexist comments, and those who speak out against them are often bullied with harassment, and even threatened by trolls.

The petition calls upon CBS and StarTrek.com to work together to implement a comments policy that:

  • Clearly bans hate speech, rape jokes, and referring to women as a group by derogatory terms (e.g. “sluts”). As well, the policy should ban comments referring to groups of people by racial, homophobic, transphobic, or ableist slurs;
  • Disallows personal attacks against other commenters; and
  • Bans aggressive negative commenting on the personal appearance of other commenters and the posts’ subjects.

If you want to see the examples that have been collected of the comments, you can do so at this site and here. There is a trigger warning though, so be careful.

What’s truly sad is that Star Trek was about inclusion (one just needs to look at its diverse cast as evidence), and broke ground in the civil rights movement (Kirk and Uhuru’s kiss is one example). The show itself portrayed a better world of peace and acceptance. Numerous episodes have been commentary on civil and social rights, championing them. The universe was and is a truly forward looking progressive one.

Looking at these comments though, creator Gene Roddenberry would be disappointed and ashamed.

“These Aren’t the Droids” Really Is A Droid that Nerd Feminism Is Looking For

Before an hour ago, I didn’t know who Neko Case was, nor did I know about Ellie Kemper or Kelly Hogan. But it would seem I’ve been missing out on a whole realm of awesome music and comedy, as a recent post by The Mary Sue introduced me to a new music video called “These Aren’t the Droids,” with vocals by Neko Case and Ellie Kemper, and lyrics by Rachel Axler, Tamara Federici, Neko Case, and Kelly Hogan. Give their video a listen first, then we’ll talk:

We’re dealing with comedy music at its finest: socially critical, humorous, and artistic. This video and the music were done for a charity music album called 2766, produced by the Levinson Brothers and Rob Kutner, a writer for The Daily Show. The album is being sold to raise money for the charity One Kid One World, and is given the following synopsis:

The year is 2776, and on the thousandth birthday of America, an evil Alien (Martha Plimpton) threatens to destroy the nation, unless the President (Will Forte) and his Secret Service agent (Aubrey Plaza) can convince her it’s worth saving. Together with a cranky George Washington (Paul F. Tompkins) they travel through our nation’s history—past AND future, taking on everything American — immigration, religion, the media, sports, politics, sex, droids, and rock n’ roll. Along the way they meet notable Americans, from God (Patton Oswalt) to the Common Cold (Aimee Mann). Can America be saved? Kind of. It’s complicated.

Despite its quality, humor, and message, The Mary Sue didn’t exactly appreciate the video, and instead stated that:

Neko Case knows there are female superheroes, right? And that women and girls are actually a huge part of the geek sphere, and have been for decades? Please, someone, show her the light. Because her music video with Kelly Hogan for “These Aren’t the Droids” would’ve been really cool—Ellie Kemper is saved by science! Feminist utopia! That rocking Leia/Spock outfit! And it’s for charity!—if not for the part where geekery is explicitly stated as being the realm of immature manboys.

Meanwhile, io9 seemed quite confused about the video as well, summing up the confusion by saying:

It’s hard to tell exactly what Case and Hogan are trying to say here, because a lot of this is just them goofing around. But they are very clear about one thing: they think geek culture is for 13-year-old boys, and that women have no place in it. They sing about a feminist future where geek culture is replaced by girl power and kittens, which is frankly weaksauce. Why not just join the geek girl revolution that has been going on for — oh, ten years or so? Still, the video also features a woman (Ellie Kemper) who is liberated by science, so I’m honestly not sure what the hell Case and Hogan are trying to say.

I have to say, frankly, that I’m surprised at these reactions. Very much so. These reactions commit a complete misinterpretation of the video that results from a not so careful reading, as it were, of the lyrics. Case and Hogan do not explicitly state that nerd culture is the realm of immature manboys, or, to use their words “teenage guys.”

Instead they argue that “the future was designed by teenage guys.” And what they have to say, if attended to with more than a casual listen, is pretty damn feminist. And funny. I took some time to write out the lyrics; granted, I missed some words here and there, and I’m not sure if my line breaks are ideal, but I think reading the lyrics while listening to the song another time through is worthwhile.

The future (the future!): It seems so exciting. It looks so inviting.

Space-drinks,space clothes, space silver jumpsuits, space world harmony,

space silver moon boots (so much silver!).

But we didn’t realize: the future was designed by teenage guy-uy-uys!

So now we’re here in 2091 and it looks like a permanent comicon.

There’s robots and aliens from every realm

And all the dudes are psyked but we’re kind of underwhelmed.

These aren’t the droids, these aren’t the droids I was looking for. Designed by boys for [word?] boys.

Welcome to the future, ladies! Booooooring.

There’s Aquamans and Supermans and Spider-Mans,

Ant-Mans, Batmans, and Wing-mans, Y the Last Mans.

There’s a man of ice who can freeze himself.

[Something about a map to Mars or Venus?] Where’s our Shackleton?!

Baseballs and basketballs and tennis balls and footballs and eyeballs and guy balls and

balls, balls, balls, balls.

Three-boobed aliens on stripper poles who want shiny sex-bots with only holes.

So that’s [something, something, something] ’cause, hey, we love a Wookiee, but I mean, come on!

It’s way past time for a revolution to your hairless post-apocalyptic constitution,

Which is, let’s face it, basically Maxim, mixed with MAD and Cracked…it’s Craxim!

If we designed the future, it’d smell so much better.

There would be no war, just some Greco-Roman wrestling (hairy dudes in singlets!)

And we’d still have guns, but they’d shoot feee-eeelii-iii-iii-ii-iii-iings.

No waxing! No shaving! Everybody’d have more hair!

A fundamental appreciation of literacy but less shades of grey;

There’d be an entire section of government devoted to inventing no [poodle shapes?].

Girl power would be an actual fuel source with zero carbon footprint.

(Made of actual girls?


Ah, you know what I mean!)

Kittens everywhere! Yeah, baskets of them, everywhere.

In restaurants! (Yeah!) In bathtubs! (Yeah!) In the Senate! (Yeah!) On the moon!

And when our clocks start tickin’, we just point to a dude’s body anywhere,

And that’s where the baby grows, and kittens and puppies come out.

And a cougar is an animal. An animal that eats you whole and poops you out on a rock.

Yeah, and we’re finally gonna get equal pay, but no one’s gonna work, so who cares anyway?

But don’t worry, guys, we’ll keep some same stuff like before, like actions figures still in their packages

Because, duh, they’re worth more!

These aren’t the droids, these aren’t the droids, these aren’t the droids I was looking for.

[Something about noise?] These aren’t the droids I was looking for.

We’re gonna own 2091 with reading and crossbows and way more fun!

It’s gonna rule!

Come join us, dudes, but if you don’t dig it well that’s still cool.

We’ll just grow our own custom dudes.

Hydroponic dudes. Hairy dudes with pubes. Dudes with boobs. Yeah, dudes with boobs!

Growin’ in tuuuuuuuuuuubes.

Case and Hogan present the argument that nerd culture is made by dudes for dudes, in a nut shell. And while some online commentators have critiqued the music video, saying that it seems to be ignoring what progress has been made, Case and Hogan are asking they’re viewers not to take pittances and minor allowances for widespread, industry or society-wide change in gender inequality.

Pittances. “These are the droids I was looking for.” Social change in geekery and nerdom will not come about because half-a-dozen female comic book creators were hired at DC, or because Marvel has half-a-dozen female-lead series. Compared to the hundreds of comics that come out every week, these are pittance.

And whether humorously for humor’s sake, or humorously to mask the sad fact that the industry diversifies greatly below the rate of an expanding market that demands, quite angrily, books about us (women, PoC, LGBTQ, etc.), the point made by Case and Hogan is a powerful one.

Yes, my daughter, who is two and a half, will grow up in a nerd culture that knows (at least right now) a very diverse cast of comic book, video game, and science fiction/fantasy characters. Some well written, others shells of faux feminism or icons of the “we need a black character because, well, they sell” persuasion.

But this doesn’t change the fact that the people making these decision, by and large, are men. The titans of nerd culture, the bastions of ungodly power who decide what games we’ll get to play and what comics we’ll get to read, are largely men.

And while The Mary Sue is as fantastic and as useful a source on feminist nerd culture that there is, I’m disheartened to see their response to this video. Especially because what Case and Hogan are arguing is that the centers of power and authority in nerd culture are not in the hands of women (or, to push it further, though they don’t say so, people of color, LGBTQ, individuals with varied ability, etc.). This is a fact that nerd feminism is acutely aware of, since the past decade, and especially the last five years, have witnessed an arduous uphill battle just to get the pittances currently available!

And yet: rape threats, online gaming harassment, rampant sexism and violence against women in comics, and a general inability to handle even iconic female characters, like Wonder Woman, well (read my discussion of the Finches here) persist. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be in a fury about a new screwed up thing that happened to backtrack the fight for equality in nerd culture ever few weeks!

“These Aren’t the Droids” shouldn’t be confusing. It shouldn’t be ambiguous or difficult to parse. It’s full of jokes about men birthing kittens and guns that shoot emotions because the people involved and the project that it belongs to is comedic in origin.

We comic book lovers don’t shy away from masks, and certainly we don’t shrink from the challenge of unmasking heroes or villains or industry “secrets,” so why is the Internet collectively failing to unmask the clear messages of this song and music video?

“These Aren’t the Droids” challenges and mocks and overturns, albeit in a funny and non-threatening way, patriarchy and misogyny-ridden nerd culture, and demands a nerd culture dominated by Kelly Sue DeConnicks, Ursula K. LeGuins, Anita Sarkeesians, Wonder Womans, and Gail Simoneses.

If even light-hearted, humorous attempt to point out the need for change can’t be interpreted as politically motivated and endowed with a will to make change, then how can we hope to enact change through and in comics?

Graphic Policy Radio On Demand. We talk online harassment, Lumberjanes, Tomb Raider & Awesome Con!

The live show happened this past Monday, but you can catch the latest episode of Graphic Policy Radio right here or download it and listen to it on the go! On this episode we discuss:

  • The ugly side of online communities reared its head as death and rape threats where made over a valid article questioning the design choices on the cover of the first issue of the soon to relaunch Teen Titans.
  • We discuss the awesomeness that is the new BOOM! Studios/BOOM! Box series Lumberjanes!
  • We talk about the first three issues of Gail Simone‘s Tomb Raider from Dark Horse.
  • We wrap up the show by discussing Awesome Con… and well how awesome it was.

Capital City Comic Con’s Boobs Shows They’re Dicks (Updated)

On International Women’s Days, Capital City Comic Con caused comic fans to take leaps back today due to the convention’s thinking putting boobs on a flyer is humorous and witty, but not misogynistic at all. The convention which takes place in Austin, Texas decided the city’s motto of “Keep it Weird” wasn’t good for them, and instead focused on “Keep it Sexist.”

While promoting the show, the convention decided to go with this flyer thinking it was funny:

capital city comic con

You can imagine this went over about as well as you can expect, with a shit storm kicking up online, thankfully condemning the promotion. When an individual decided to call out the convention on their Facebook page, this was their response:


DC Women Kicking Ass reached out to the convention and received this response:

Aaron Luevano who told me by email that he was aware of the card and approved it telling me”I asked before it was designed, many approved.”

When in the wrong, double down I guess. Thankfully individuals are speaking up, not only posting angry Tweets, but also going directly to the show, responding to their comment on Facebook above or posting their own and rating the show. Here’s a sampling:

2014-03-08_2331 2014-03-08_2335 2014-03-08_2336

Sexism, misogyny, and harassment within the industry and especially at conventions has been an issue for years. For every step forward, we get just as many steps back like the above incident, or this other recent one from another convention.

We’ll see how the convention continues to put their foot in their mouth, or if they decide to get their head out of their ass and do the right thing.

Update: Capital City Comic Con posted a few updates on their Facebook page. First up, Aaron Luevano posted this in the reviews (scoring the show 3 stars, which is odd):

In response to our prior ad campaign, the proper steps are being taken in regards to this situation. Capital City Comic Con did not mean to offend or harm anyone, in any way. Our advertising department has been contacted and changes to our marketing material and plan are being made. We respect everyone’s opinion. We are glad this issue was brought to our attention. We want everyone to feel safe at our convention and not feel offended. As a comic book convention, it is primordial that we do not send the wrong message to fans. We were contacted by a few female fans who wish to support the distribution of our initial flyers, to which we respectfully declined. As for our future plans, we will no longer use the image of superheroes (or any character) in such fashion. We wish to apologize to anyone we may have offended with our initial promotional campaign. We would like to invite all of you to comment on our new campaign once released. Your feedback is greatly appreciated. From the staff and management

There was also this:

In response to our prior ad campaign, the proper steps are being taken in regards to this situation. Capital City Comic Con did not mean to offend or harm anyone, in any way. Our advertising department has been contacted and changes to our marketing material and plan are being made.

We respect everyone’s opinion. We are glad this issue was brought to our attention. We want everyone to feel safe at our convention and not feel offended. As a comic book convention, it is primordial that we do not send the wrong message to fans.

We were contacted by a few female fans who wish to support the distribution of our initial flyers, to which we respectfully declined. As for our future plans, we will no longer use the image of superheroes (or any character) in such fashion. We wish to apologize to anyone we may have offended with our initial promotional campaign.

We would like to invite all of you to comment on our new campaign once released. Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

From the staff and management

I’ll leave it to you the readers to decide how to take both statements.

(via Richard Neal of Zeus Comics that has condemned this, please support this store!)

Listen to Graphic Policy Radio Tonight at 9pm!

GP Radio Special Mondya 9pmIt’s Monday night and we have a new episode of Graphic Policy Radio at an earlier time!

Tonight’s episode is coming to you live at 9pm ET. You can listen in and join in the conversation by calling in with your opinions.

This week we have lots to discuss:

  • News rocked the comic world as a high profile creator was accused of being a jackass and treating women poorly
  • We’ll talk about the cancellation of Young Avengers and Wolverine & the X-Men
  • We’ll review comics such as Sandman: Overture, Pretty Deadly, Three and more!

So join us by listening in, but we want to hear from you!

Call us at (619) 768-2952 with your thoughts or Tweet them to us @graphicpolicy.

History is Written by the Winners of the Marvel No-Prize

Guest commentary post from Emma Houxbois. Emma is a queer blogger for hire out of Vancouver, BC most recently attached to Girls Read Comics. You can follow her on Twitter @emmahouxbois.

no-prizeThe thing about history is that you’ve got to be really careful who you let write it. Herodotus, the guy widely acknowledged as the inventor of western history writing was known as both “The Father of History” and “The Father of Lies,” in his lifetime, and one of the reasons for that was that he never really made any kind of an effort to judge the credibility of the people he was collecting history from. It’s widely believed that he skewed towards the empowered members of society, meaning that the saying “history is written by the winners” is as old as history itself. This past week in comics, we got the rude awakening that it’s history is currently being written by the winners of the Marvel No-Prize.

For reasons unknown to anyone with a lick of sense, a panel consisting of Todd McFarlane, Len Wein, and Gerry Conway were assembled to publicize a forthcoming PBS documentary about superhero comics. While already dubious choices compared to more genuinely influential and knowledgeable prospects like Trina Robbins, Mark Waid, Karen Berger, or that mysterious Twitter account claiming to be Steranko, the trio put on an astounding display of jamming their entire legs up to the knee down their own throats. Todd McFarlane, creator of one of the best selling black superheroes in history, seems to believe that increasing diversity in comics will only lead to tokenism. Of course in 2006, when Robert Kirkman crashed McFarlane’s panel at the SDCCI, the Spawn creator had no idea who he was until he was informed by another panel member that Kirkman was “the guy who writes that zombie comic you like,” a comic published by McFarlane’s own Image Comics at the time. McFarlane also went on, during the same incident, to say in defense of having not done anything significant in comics since Spawn that “once you’ve created your Mickey Mouse or your Donald Duck, you don’t really have to do anything else.” So it isn’t as if McFarlane’s complete indifference to anything in comics that isn’t related to his personal legacy is a closely guarded secret or new information. Nor is it that he’s a noted hypocrite after having lost a lengthy legal action by Neil Gaiman to regain control of the characters he contributed to Spawn after years of McFarlane crowing about how the founding of Image was a victory for creator’s rights in the industry.

Gerry Conway was adamant that superheroes are strictly for men and boys, using a bizarre self defeating anecdote about his daughter’s disinterest in “guy stories,” mentioning Faith Erin Hicks who writes The Adventures of Superhero Girl. Of course Conway is responsible for the two most exploited fridgings in Marvel history, if not superhero comics as a whole; The Punisher’s self justification for his antics based on the death of his wife and child as well as the death of Gwen Stacy. If Conway’s own daughter is disinterested in what he calls “guy stories” and McFarlane wouldn’t use superheroes if he wanted to write a story catering to his own daughters, it has to be noted that Conway’s body of work is one of the chief culprits in disillusioning potential female readers. Of course Len Wein is the real elephant in the room, given that Alan Moore disclosed in 2006 when he approached Wein for permission to cripple Barbara Gordon in The Killing Joke, Wein told him “Yeah, okay, cripple the bitch.” Inviting Len Wein or Gerry Conway to talk about gender in comics is basically like asking Don Imus to talk about racism in sports.

At around the same time that this nonsense was unfolding, a beautiful and moving thing that happened in Japan was being circulated by Sailor Moon fans on Tumblr. The second live event detailing the festivities for the 20th anniversary of Sailor Moon and the forthcoming series was being translated, capped, and analyzed by the fervent western fans of the pop culture juggernaut. However, instead of updates on the timeline for the new series, what dominated the fan discourse were the statements by the director of the 2013 edition of the live action stage show, whose cast is entirely female. By way of explanation, he related that his understanding of Naoko Takeuchi’s manga was that it was written by women for women and so it was only natural to put on the show using only women. Not satisfied with those bold and endearing statements, he went on to say “I feel like Takeuchi Naoko’s work flew in the face of the atmosphere at the time. It said ‘women are strong, there’s nothing wrong with being strong and we should be stronger’ and as a result in these twenty years, women have become stronger in our society. That part of her work has everlasting value and I feel like now we should remind society again of the same message.” While I’m not sure that twenty years of gains for women in Japanese society can be chalked up entirely to the influence of Sailor Moon, it is heartening to hear, especially from a man in this context, the fervent belief that comics can in fact inspire positive social change. It isn’t hard to see that same belief among the western fans, as it’s an unmistakable fact that a large segment of young women active in fighting for representation in western comics are Sailor Moon fans, and the most ardent supporters of Sailor Moon are staunch feminists. Sailor Moon also continues to deeply influence female creators to this day, most notably Adventure Time contributor and Bee and Puppycat creator Natasha Allegri, whose genderbent world of Fionna and Cake rests on Sailor Moon as it’s foundation from the rabbit ears on her hat to her feline companion and even her formal gown patterned after the future Silver Millennium version of Usagi.

That Conway feels comics follow instead of lead culture is no actual reflection on the real state of the world’s last living mythology, it’s a reflection on three men who never pushed themselves or their work to a level beyond what could be most comfortably and easily sold. None of them put their careers on the line with bold statements like Dwayne McDuffie’s infamous Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers memo or created entire critical frameworks for discussing women’s place in popular fiction like Gail Simone’s Women in the Refrigerator polemic or Alison Bechdel‘s eponymous test. It also really begs the question if any of them are aware that Captain America punched Hitler a full year before the United States entered World War II. In every decade that superhero comics have existed, they’ve lead culture. In a landscape where Orange is the New Black’s Laverne Cox, (directed by Jodie Foster in the episode revolving around her character), is making headlines and shattering the long history of cis actors being cast as trans* people, comics are leading culture. Matt Fraction is currently surfing the crest of the wave of positive portrayals of trans* people in a team book that is three quarters female. Gail Simone is poised alongside him selling out her Batgirl title in which Babs’ roommate is a trans woman. The critical importance of all three narratives cannot be underscored any stronger than by Chloe Sevigny’s current shameful behavior wearing a prosthetic penis to portray a trans woman and throwing around slurs that demean real trans women behind the scenes. Which is just one singular issue, one singular anecdote in a sea of progressive storytelling in comics that has taken the lead on issues as diverse as addiction, sex work, homophobia, racism, sexism, and domestic violence to name a few. The true history of comics isn’t a soulless echo chamber of privileged men writing exclusionist power fantasies for each other. The true history of comics is as queer and beautiful as it is ugly and heartbreaking, when it’s told by people who actually participated in and benefited from it’s queerness and beauty. Sadly many including Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, and Dwayne McDuffie have passed away but there do remain several other creators and commentators who, if given the chance, would gladly sing the praises of those and other trailblazers.

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