Those words are a pretty good summary of how I try to live my life.
It’s important going into what I’m about to say because I don’t know if this is the right thing to do. But I feel like it is. I know it’s better than doing nothing. I’m trying really hard to be one of the good guys right now. I hope I am.
Over the last few days, Yale Stewart has been accused of sending unsolicited, lewd images of himself to peers in the comics community. These accusations are true.
For those of you who know me, I hope you are willing to take my word on this. I hope you know that I would not say something this serious without being absolutely certain. For the rest of you, I can be found anywhere on the web. I do not hide my face or my name anywhere I go. I recognize that there will be a negative response to this post and I am willing to stand by every word of it. Yale Stewart sent pictures of his penis to women. Yale Stewart sexually harassed women. Yale Stewart has frightened and hurt women.
The reaction to this has been disheartening. Websites like Twitter and Reddit are filled with voices demanding proof. People are supporting Yale and demonizing those who point out what he has done. Unleash the Fanboy has released one of the most shameful and disappointing pieces of comics journalism I have ever read. They minimize the behavior in question, stating that “any self respecting American male younger than 30 knows the pain of the regrettable dick slip”. The expectation is that the women harassed by Yale Stewart come forward before anyone acknowledges his action. The support and acknowledgement of comics journalists and professionals with nothing to gain is not enough. The public has made it clear that the women must step forward for this to be taken seriously. And by “the public”, I mostly mean men. The people defending Yale Stewart and demanding that the women step forward are mostly men, the people with the least to fear from this sort of behavior.
But how can we expect women to speak up when men show so little support to those who do so?
Less than six months ago, Janelle Asselin published an art critique, which referenced the overt sexualization of a teenager. The response was nothing short of horrific. She was threatened with rape and called every horrible name you can possibly imagine. Her story is not unique. Whenever women step forward to discuss the problems of the comics industry they are abused. We, as the public, we, as comics fandom choose to show them hatred.
So when a popular artist like Yale Stewart sexually harasses women, how can we expect them to trust us?
The simplest answer is we can’t. We can’t because we’ve given women no reason to trust us. All of the hateful messages and rants and threats mean that they can’t trust us. And before you claim that you’ve never sent one of those messages, stop. Just stop.
It’s not enough to not hurt someone. Not hurting people is the bare minimum. That’s neutrality at best and complicity at worst.
When something like this happens, it’s not enough to simply say nothing. We have to say something. We have to defend the victims even if we don’t know who they are. We have to show them support and let them know that we can create a safe space. There are a lot of bad guys attacking the women who are brave enough to come forward and point out the men who are attacking or harassing them. And we cannot simply ignore them. We have to speak up and support those who come forward and defend those who are unable to do so. That’s not because it’s chivalrous or they can’t defend themselves. It’s because it’s the right thing to do.
This same shit keeps happening. It keeps coming up and it never feels like it’s getting any better. This is not the first column written demanding change and it will not be the last. Andy Khouri wrote a moving piece at Comics Alliance earlier this year in response to the attacks on Janelle Asselin. I’d like to invert something he said there: Men are the problem, but we can also be part of the solution.
It won’t get better until every one of us raises our voices and says no more. Ignoring the bad guys isn’t going to make these situations better. It will only allow us to ignore them for a little while. The response to creeps like Yale Stewart harassing women cannot be silence or muffled anger. It must be clear. It must be loud. It must be unanimous.
My message is not intended for the people sending the hate mail and threats. They are too far gone. They are filled with hatred and are working to make the world a darker place. This message is for everyone who is saying nothing. You have to say something. Respond to the people demonizing women and tell them it’s not okay. It’s not enough to have one or two advocates. All of us must stand up and make it clear that we will not tolerate this sort of behavior, that we will support anyone who makes their harassment public, that we will be the good guys.
I don’t believe the majority of fans condone this behavior. I believe the overwhelming majority wants it to stop. Until we make that known, until we do everything we can to support women in comics it won’t. So please do something. Tweet, post, e-mail that you want to know the truth and that you will use your voice to support it.
We have to support the women in comics. We have to be the good guys because there are already too many of the bad.