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The Shaming Of Sexual Harassment By Social Media

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Last month, Bleeding Cool ran an article quoting comic creator Tess Fowler, in which she detailed what she saw as unforgivable behaviour towards her at the hands of another comic book creator. However, since Tess Fowler didn't choose to name names in her tweets, we respected that, and closed the message board to prevent in-thread speculation.

Last week on Twitter, Tess changed her mind about the naming. It appears to have been this tweet that started it;

Tess responded with;

She then continued at length. It is worth emphasising that her account has yet to be tested or proved and the person she accused has not chosen to comment publicly. What is important though that she brings up wider aspects of how women are often treated in the comics industry, how such treatment is hidden, and why people won't name names. It's not one name, it's many. This time however, it seems to be being recognised, with articles on The Beat and The Outhouse, and an earlier Comics Alliance piece becoming a focus point for traffic.









Tess did raise a number of important issues, much much of the attention was focused on specific allegations against Wood. Two days later, Brian Wood decided to publicly respond, stating;

Tess Fowler is correct about this: I did make a pass at her at SDCC Hyatt bar roughly 8 years ago.  But when she declined, that was the conclusion of the matter for me.  There was never a promise of quid pro quo, no exertion of power, no threats, and no revenge.  This was at a time in my career when I had very little professional power or industry recognition.  The pickup was a lame move, absolutely, and I'll accept the heat for having done it, but that's all it was: I liked her, I took a chance, and was shot down. I immediately regretted it, and I apologize to Ms. Fowler for the tackiness and embarrassment of it all.

He also stated that;

I think the larger issues of abuse in the comics industry are genuine and I share everyone's concerns.  As a father to a young daughter showing an interest in making her own comics, I do really care about this stuff.  So I don't want our difference of accounts to take attention away from that industry-wide discussion that needs to happen.

Today, Fowler responded to these comments, detailing her experience at length, stating;

I responded in a Twitter thread to another pro, giving my account of a story from my past as a show of defense. That this thread was then picked up by Bleeding Cool and has sparked another, larger conversation about the state of comic books today is more important here. But I also did take to Twitter again to make a very public statement after my inbox was filled with accounts from other women who had found themselves in my same position. My story was not an isolated incident. Not by a long shot. I knew I'd catch some heat for being so honest, but I stand by my decision to speak frankly, in anger. For the ladies who can't talk about it, and for the gents who've been watching it occur for years, but also to clear the air:

But do you know what is different. People are talking about this. Really talking, at length from message board to thread to blog, there's a feeling that not only is this no longer acceptable – if it ever was – but now, with social media, that the cones of silence may be lifting and people are more willing to talk about their experiences.

Whether youth services librarian Ivy;

Because we, comic nerds, are not yet at a place where we are really treating any gender interested in comics fairly. Fowler is still "a girl in comics", and her reaction to something that could happen to any woman– in any career field– is seen as revolutionary. Why? Because a woman reporting sexual harassment is a risk. Suddenly, you're being questioned from every angle: what were you wearing? Did you say no? If you felt threatened why didn't you defend yourself?

Photographer Anne Scherbina, previously Anne Rogers, who used to work in Events & Retailer Services at DC Comics

@TessFowler I am no longer in comics, but when I was, I had a creepy thing happen with him, that he later spun to others as being my idea.

— Anne Scherbina (@Anne_Scherbina) November 16, 2013

or G Willow Wilson;

I have never had a negative or skeevy encounter with a male comics professional. Not one. Not at cons, not at parties, not at meetings, not in green rooms or on panels. In fact, the vast majority of men I've met in the industry—including Brian Wood—have been both friendly and generous with their time and influence.

Then again, I dress like a nun. A nun with possible terrorist connections. Who has strabismus. So perhaps I'm not the best example. Nearly every other woman I've met in the industry seems to have horror stories about creepy run-ins with male colleagues and creators.

This issue breaks out of the shadows every few years it seems, the difference now is that social media can keep it out. Expand its original borders. And possibly stop someone in their tracks in the future from doing something very silly.

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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