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Will the Real Superheroes Please Stand Up: Fanboys and Sexual Harassment

ComicsAlliance senior editor Andy Khouri was horrified at the extent of the vitriol directed at his colleague and ComicsAlliance contributor, Janelle Asselin. His article, “Fake Geek Guys: A Message to Men About Sexual Harassment,” is directed at both trolls who indulge in anonymous threats of sexual violence against the women with whom they disagree, and the majority of male fans who would never contemplate engaging in such behavior.

Asselin’s recent ordeal began when she strongly criticized the cover art of DC Comics’ Teen Titans. Among issues with perspective and composite, Asselin pointed out that the gravity-defying enormity of Wonder Girl’s breasts was both a physical impossibility and highly inappropriate on a 16-year-old character. This resulted in a backlash of criticism directed at Asselin that escalated to cracks over her credentials and legitimacy as a comic art critic which seemed to be fueled by her gender, and not her well-documented experience within the industry. The furor escalated to the point that Asselin began receiving virulent threats on an online survey she was running on sexual harassment in the comic book industry. As reported by Khouri, one male respondent wrote: “Women in comics are the deviation, the invading body, the cancer. We are the cure, the norm, the natural order… In the end all you are is a pathetic little girl trying to effect change and failing to make a dent.”

Khouri was also inspired to write his article after hearing a panel discussion on sexual harassment in comics fandom while at Seattle’s Emerald City Comicon. The women presenting at the panel – Asselin, along with ComicsAlliance Editor-in-Chief Laura Hudson and contributor Rachel Edidin – made the point that the sexual harassment was not their problem to solve, but that of men.

Khouri takes the point to heart when he writes:

“Sexual harassment isn’t an occupational hazard. It’s not a glitch in the complex matrix of modern life. It’s not something that just ‘happens.’ It’s something men do. It’s a choice men make. It’s a problem men enable. It’s sometimes a crime men commit. And it is not in the power nor the responsibility of women to wage war on this crime.”
“It’s on us.”

He concludes by pointing out that harassment, and enabling harassment by remaining silent when it occurs, is antithetical to the standards of decency and fairness promoted by superhero comics. Khouri challenges men to check trolling and harassment. In other words, Khouri is inviting fans to emulate the true superheroes.

Brought to our attention by @colleendoran.