Heidi MacDonald of the Comics news website The Beat has a piece about two stories which have ruffled feathers in the fannish community this past week. No, it's not about Alfred being portrayed as black. This is about a couple of comics conventions celebrating the Year of the Woman with some really clueless promotions and by responding in a maladroit manner.
To start with, we have Capital City Con, held in Autsin Texas; and before we get too down on Texas, let us remember that Austin is probably the most liberal city in the state and so the folks there ought to have known better.
To promote their upcoming convention this July, they made up a series of postcards which they gave to comic book shops in the region. There were different designs on the postcards, but one of them was particularly striking: It featured Power Girl's Boob Window.
Not Power Girl herself, mind you. Just her boobs and the huge cut-out in her costume which displays her cleavage. Oh, and the caption: "Everything is BIGGER in Austin!"
Nice and subtle.
A comic shop owner was concerned by the promo. "It doesn't foster the community I want for [Zeus Comics, his shop] for certain." he tweeted. MacDonald observed that the image was a fine promotion for some businesses, a strip club, perhaps, or a giant-sized bra store; but not a comics convention.
Some female fans from the blogsite DC Women Kicking Ass emailed the convention organizers to ask them about it, and got this wonderfully condescending response:
It's one of many promotional flyers for the con. I like the idea of reaching out to many aspects of the community, and honestly this was one of the more humor oriented ones. And if this bothers you, i have to wonder if you've ever been to a comics con?Y'know, the guy might have gotten away with that response if he'd just left off that last snarky remark. But his reply was posted on the DC Women Kicking Ass blog and got attention; and the convention got feedback. Apparently several comics professionals announced that they were going to withdraw from the show. The con committee then released a second statement backing down and apologizing.
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.The other incident is a bit more subtle, although I suppose it would be difficult for it not to be. Promotional flyers for the Toronto Comics Con included the following line:
ESCAPE THE DEEP FREEZE THIS WEEKEND -- CUDDLE A COSPLAYERWhich the copy writer probably thought was a cute joke. And I have to admit, I probably wouldn't have thought twice about it. But in the past couple years, as cosplaying at conventions has become more popular, there has been a lot of concern about people wearing costumes being harassed, and of con-goers taking another person's costume as an invitation for harassment.
Once again, when these concerns were raised, the con responded badly. Jill Pantozzi of the website The Mary Sue reports that when female fans complained to the convention:
They stated that their attendees and their team were adults, and it was all a bit of fun that people wouldn’t take seriously. A direct quote from the email ’We thought about clarifying that cuddles must come with consent, but we thought if we’re always putting the rules in front of the fun – well that hurts the spirit of Fan Expo as much as the people that try to abuse our rules.” They also stated that they hadn’t gotten around to putting their harassment policy up yet, but had made it a priority.Apparently the convention did eventually get around to putting up a harassment policy, but their general attitude seemed more concerned about guys having their fun dampened because some blue-stocking told them to behave rather than about women having their fun spoiled because jerks keep pinching their butts.
I expect some reaction from the whinier segment of the fannish community complaining about the "PC Police". But when I hear guys gripe about "Political Correctness", most of the time what they're really complaining about is simple manners and the injustice of people expecting them to actually be polite.