Tag Archives: anti-feminism

An Important Question That Feminists And MRAs Must Answer (Honestly)

There are certain debates that I try to avoid. Sure, I’ll contribute to a debate between Marvel and DC fans. That often inspires some trolling, but it won’t inspire outright threats. When those debates revolve around unpleasant issues like race, religion, gender, or anything having to do with politics since last year’s election, I avoid it like the plague.

Every now and then, though, I feel compelled to at least comment on an ongoing debate. While I doubt that comment will resolve anything, I try to make sure it’s something worth adding to the conversation, if only to provide perspective. In my experience, perspective is the first thing lost when people start insulting each other’s mothers.

Before I started writing erotica/romance novels, I actually enjoyed debates. I thought they represented meaningful dialog. Then, I learned the hard way that the desire to win an argument often gets in the way of having productive discussions. There are few topics that don’t involve religion where this plays out more in gender issues.

Sometimes it’s between sex positive feminists and sex negative feminists. Sometimes it’s between feminists and men’s rights activists. Sometimes it’s between alpha males and beta males. In any case, the drama and the vitriol is the same. The sides of the argument are passionate and committed. Neither is likely to ever sway the other.

I can understand that, to some extent. There are undeniable gender disparities in this world, as well as a few subtle disparities that rarely come up in debates. I can also understand why certain people take the sides they do. Feminists, no matter what type they may be, are going to argue for women’s issues. MRAs, no matter how adversarial they may be to feminists, will take the side of men.

There are important issues that are worth debating, regardless of how much or how little you care about gender disparities. Even if neither side can completely win the argument, the debates do inspire all sorts of ideas that enrich everybody involved.

That being said, I still feel compelled to inject a little perspective into the debate. I think emotions on both sides are in overdrive after some pretty major sex scandals, which is fueling more outrage than discussion. As such, I’d like to reorient that perspective by asking one basic question to feminists, MRAs, and gender-driven ideologues of all types.

Do the goals of your ideology directly benefit you to the direct detriment of another?

It’s a yes-or-no question, but I imagine it’s one of those questions that few can answer honestly on a whim. That’s the key part that I want to emphasize. Anyone who answers this question, regardless of which side on gender issues they take, should answer this question with the kind of brutal honesty usually reserved for British TV personalities.

That’s because the question is twofold. The first part is somewhat a given. If you’re in the business of discussing gender issues, you usually have a goal. A part of that goal usually involves benefiting you and others like you. That’s the point of any effort that requires you to endure arguments, insults, and trolling.

The goals of feminism, men’s rights advocates, and everything in between involve benefitting individuals within their tribe. That’s not the issue here. It’s the second part where the honesty is harder to discern because it requires a self-assessment and a greater understanding of the bigger picture.

If you’re looking to achieve a goal that hurts or inconveniences no one, then chances are it’s not going to inspire many debates. Those efforts rarely face any political or social overtones. They’re as simple as being low on marshmallows and wanting to get more. The only one you’re inconveniencing is yourself.

When that goal involves something detrimental or inconvenient to someone else, regardless of whether it’s real or perceived, that’s when you run into problems. If that benefit you seek requires someone else to pay a price, then you’ve got a problem. It’s not always a bad problem. There are times when that the absence of that benefit is an injustice. Issues like voting or protection from violence are good examples.

Those kinds of goals tend to be simple with tangible, documented harm that is directly linked to a gender disparity. It’s the more complicated goals, such as those involving body image, mass media, or cultural trends, that tend evoke the kind of cyclical vitriol on both sides that never seems to abate.

These issues can’t be easily solved by passing a law or flipping a switch. They often require large groups to change their attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions about the world. In the same way people struggle to break bad habits, this sort of thing is not easy to do. It plays out in all sorts of ways.

“Stop admiring sexy women! That’s sexist!”

“Stop asking for free stuff because you’re a woman! That’s fascist!”

“Stop demanding that I find you attractive! That’s body shaming!”

“Stop enjoying what you love because it’s perpetuating misogyny/racism/misandry/homophobia/transphobia!”

However it plays out, the end result has a similar dynamic. In achieving the goal for one side, it negatively impacts the other. Sometimes their power and influence isn’t as great. Sometimes they’re shamed for liking something or supporting a certain position. Sometimes they have to pay a price, sometimes with money and sometimes with other forms of social currency.

In that situation, it creates a predicament to whoever is arguing on the other side. It undermines they’re objectivity. That person, be they a feminist or an MRA, has something to gain by their side prevailing. Like an investor who has a vested interest in a product failing, they’ll argue louder than most that the product is crap.

This is difficult to acknowledge because it undermines someone’s inherent sense that they’re the hero in this story. If Superman only did what he did because he acknowledged he got free ice cream for every criminal he stopped, then that would affect how people saw his motivations.

I don’t doubt that feminists and MRAs are motivated to pursue what they feel is an objective good. However, if they have something to gain from their side prevailing, then there’s a non-zero amount of subjectivity involved. Absent that perspective, the effort becomes less about confronting those gender disparities and more about maximizing your own personal advantage.

Let’s not lie to ourselves. If life were a video game, we would want to use cheat codes every now and then. It’s not wrong to admit that or even to seek advantages that others can’t have. However, to not acknowledge those self-serving facets of an issue is to claim your character is somehow greater and your opponents might as well be Nazis.

Very little good can some from any debate when both sides think their opponents are just monsters to be slain and not people with their own interests at heart. I don’t doubt that debates over gender disparities and gender-related issues will continue. I also don’t doubt that some of those debates will be as rational as the “Deadpool 2” synopsis.

It’s for those reasons that this question needs to be asked and answered honestly. I get it. Honesty is tough in a world of fake news, internet trolls, and all-around assholes. That’s why, if we’re serious about achieving our goals, we need to value it in any discussion about gender. The future of the human race literally depends on it.

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Filed under gender issues, Marriage and Relationships

When A Controversy (That Involves Scantily Clad Women) Should NOT Be A Controversy

We live in a controversial time within a controversial place surrounded by all sorts of high-tech tools that allow us to spread controversy in every direction. It may very well be the first time in human history where controversy of any kind has a chance to spread discord among large swaths of people with too much free time and a cell phone.

That can be a good and a bad thing in that it makes us more aware of the world outside our immediate surroundings. However, when it’s a bad thing, it’s bad for frustratingly insipid reasons. Lately, whenever those reasons involve beautiful women, the people who admire them, and sexism, it becomes even more frustrating.

Like many other self-professed comic book fans, I’ve been eagerly following the news surrounding “Justice League.” After the success of “Wonder Woman,” this movie marks a huge step in the development of DC’s evolving cinematic universe, which Warner Brothers is hoping will compete directly with the cinematic juggernaut known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

That kind of competition is bound to attract some controversy, if only from angry fans trash-talking each other about whether Wonder Woman could beat up Thor. Sometimes, that controversy is healthy. This is not one of those times.

Just days before the movie came out, this little incident sparked the wrong kind of controversy for all the wrong reasons. Unfortunately, it involves beautiful women in sexy attire. It’s something that should be innately fun, enjoyable, and positive for everyone who isn’t a celibate monk seeking to avoid temptation. Instead, it sparks Round 8,839,272,093 of another angry debate about gender and sexism.

Now, I’m as sick of these debates as everyone else. I’d much rather be focusing on enjoying this movie and seeing how it measures up to “Wonder Woman,” but certain people just can’t help themselves whenever they see an opportunity to evoke some fresh outrage.

This time, it has to do with how the Amazons are dressed. After their introduction in “Wonder Woman,” which made for some truly wonderful moments, they’re set to participate again in “Justice League.” That should be a good thing. They’re a tribe of powerful ancient warriors. Why shouldn’t they participate in a battle to save the world?

That fact might as well be an afterthought for some people because apparently, they’re not dressed appropriately. I must have missed a meeting because at some point, someone passed a rule that said you couldn’t look sexy while saving the world. As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I oppose such a rule with every fiber of my being.

Wherever it came from, it seems to be an issue now. There are real people who insist on making this a major issue, which requires them to ignore the fact that a tribe of badass warrior women is involved in the first place. Instead, they’re just focusing on how they’re dressed. Seriously, is this really worth that level of outrage?

Never mind the fact that warrior women kind of have to be really fit and being fit is a major factor in sex appeal. The fact that “Justice League” dares to offer that kind of sex appeal in any capacity is somehow an affront to women, feminism, and progress in the 21st century. If I could write that with more sarcasm, I would.

Before I go on too angry a rant, it’s worth noting that this sort of thing stands in direct contract to Gal Gadot’s own message that women should dress however the hell they want. It’s also worth noting that one of the actresses, Brooke Ence, who plays one of the Amazons, did not see much controversy with the attire. In a USA Today interview, she said this:

As she recalls, not every warrior wore a two-piece, and “the girls on set, we never thought of (the new costumes) as a sexy version. It felt a little more glamorous, if anything, because we had bigger, beautiful hair, which I loved.”

In fact, the CrossFit champion, who gets a heroic scene in the new movie, added, “I’m an athlete first, right? (Usually) I can’t wear anything without someone commenting about my (muscular) body. So for me, it was actually really cool to be able to show it and not immediately feel masculine, but still very feminine.”

By the actual words of a woman who actually wore that attire, she liked that sexy attire. She thought it was glamorous and showed off the body that she clearly worked so hard to sculpt. There’s no hint, whatsoever, that she was forced to dress this way to appeal to horny men.

That implies, shockingly enough, that sometimes women want to dress sexy. It implies that it’s okay to look sexy and it’s okay for men to appreciate that. I even made a formal announcement about it last year. I guess some people didn’t get the memo.

I’ll try to limit the sarcasm from here on out, but this is the key factor in determining whether a controversy involving scantily-clad women even warrants controversy to begin with. This is not an old Carl’s Junior ad or necessarily softcore standards utilized by Victoria’s Secret. These are female characters in a movie that is trying to appeal to everyone, including men.

The women wearing that attire never claimed they were being exploited. There was no noticeable uptick in sex crimes as a result of this attire being worn. The only offense anyone took were those claiming to be offended on behalf of all women. Therein lies the problem, though.

If one of the actresses had come out and said they felt degraded by that attire, that would be one thing. If it came out that some asshole producer forced them to wear it after they’d objected, that would be quite another. Given the recent climate surrounding sexual exploitation, they probably would’ve had a lot of allies.

That didn’t happen, though. Instead, those allies jumped the gun. They didn’t wait to hear from the women wearing the sexy attire. They didn’t even ask how they felt about wearing it. They just assumed, outright, that it was degrading, offensive, and sexist. That’s not just arrogant and presumptuous. It’s counterproductive because it turns allies in the fight against sexism into assholes.

In order to be offended for everyone, you have to assume everyone feels the same way you do. That’s a flawed, egotistical, narcissistic assumption. That’s exactly the kind of selfishness that Wonder Woman and Gal Gadot oppose with their emphasis on compassion and understanding. Anyone who feels as though they have to be offended for someone other than themselves is basically forcing unwarranted outrage.

This is the kind of thing that gives feminism, men’s rights activists, and people who make excuses for being arrogant dicks a bad name. It’s not that they react to something that’s controversial. They have to either create it or bend it to fit their agenda. I guarantee that as I type this, there are countless debates going on about the merits of sexism, scantily clad women, and sex appeal that aren’t making anyone horny.

That’s not to say that scantily clad women are always positive. Even an aspiring erotica/romance writer understands there’s a line between beauty and gratuity. There’s nothing about the Amazons’ attire that’s so gratuitous that it should require someone’s credit card number and a quick clearing of their browser history. The fact that it has been addressed by those who participated in it should be the end of the story.

Sadly, I suspect this won’t be the end. Even after the outrage over this issue passes, there will be another. For reasons that I wish I didn’t have to discuss, there will still be controversy every time a beautiful woman decides to show more skin than a priest, monk, or mullah deems appropriate.

Until we’re all comfortable in our own skin, or find a way to upgrade our brains to avoid the outrage before it starts, I suspect these kinds of controversies will continue. Just remember that if it has to be forced by those not involved, it’s not a controversy of merit. All it does is take away from those who just want to enjoy being sexy or admire those who are.

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Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, gender issues, sex in media

Joss Whedon: Feminist Hypocrite Or All Too Human?

Happier times: Architect and producer Cole claims that Whedon cheated on her multiple times through their 16 year marriage in her piece for The Wrap; (pictured 2010)

If you’ve been following this blog in any capacity, or even the past few months, you’ve probably picked up on a number of themes. If you’re new and just stumbled across this blog because you noticed how much it talks about boobs, sex robots, and Deadpool, then here’s a quick rundown of those themes.

  • Every human being is at the mercy of their brain wiring to a large extent
  • Our brain wiring still assumes that we’re a bunch of cavemen hunting and foraging in the savanna
  • Our brains and body structure have two primary purposes, survival and reproduction
  • Any function other than survival and reproduction is secondary
  • Our overall biology is a blunt instrument that is nearly incapable of being precise, specific, or consistent
  • People will make endless excuses to justify actions they think were more logical than they actually are
  • Sex robots are awesome and cannot come soon enough

For this post, which highlights a major story that broke recently, it’ll cover almost all of those themes, minus the sex robots. It’s also a story that’s still developing so, in all likelihood, the details are bound to change at some point.

 

That tends to happen a lot when the story involves divorce, celebrities, and potential hypocrisy on a level that even our celebrity-loving culture can’t tolerate. I’ve made an issue of that kind of hypocrisy before when sex icon and walking male fantasy Pamela Anderson came out against porn, despite having become rich and famous from it. This, however, involves a different kind of hypocrisy.

This brings me Joss Whedon, whose life seems to have taken a few tumbles since it peaked while directing “The Avengers.” It’s not just that he never got “Firefly” un-cancelled or did not do a good job of handling the less-than-flattering controversy surrounding “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” His personal life is also suffering.

Lately, Whedon has been going through a long, tedious divorce with his wife, Kai Cole. Divorce is always rough, even when you’re as celebrated and successful as Joss Whedon. Celebrity couples endure it with distressing frequency, as Chris Pratt and Anna Faris recently learned. However, Whedon’s divorce has incurred another story with even larger implications.

Granted, it doesn’t take much to make divorce even more painful, especially when you have the resources of a celebrity. This might be one case where the pain goes beyond the relationship, revealing something about ourselves that’s as impactful as any billion-dollar movie.

That pain came in the form of a letter that Kai Cole penned about her husband for The Wrap. This is not just an angry rant from a bitter ex-wife, although that’s definitely a part of it. This letter potentially reveals a level of hypocrisy that may undermine our ability to trust any male celebrity who claims to be an ardent feminist.

While I’ve articulated my doubts about those kinds of figures before, Ms. Cole’s article is basically a perfect storm, of sorts. That’s because, until this letter, Joss Whedon had a reputation as being the quintessential male feminist in Hollywood geek culture.

He did plenty to earn that reputation too by creating shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Dollhouse,” and the aforementioned “Firefly.” He even wrote comics like Astonishing X-men. The man had a long list of accomplishments. The fact he did so much under the feminist label says a lot about him.

Then, this letter comes along that basically says Whedon’s feminist credentials are built on a lie. It’s a major revelation that may not have surprised some, but it’s still pretty jarring for those who held Whedon as the gold standard for male feminism.

For some context, here are some of the things his ex-wife said about those lies. I’ll give die-hard Buffy fans a moment to brace themselves.

There were times in our relationship that I was uncomfortable with the attention Joss paid other women. He always had a lot of female friends, but he told me it was because his mother raised him as a feminist, so he just liked women better. He said he admired and respected females, he didn’t lust after them. I believed him and trusted him. On the set of “Buffy,” Joss decided to have his first secret affair.

Fifteen years later, when he was done with our marriage and finally ready to tell the truth, he wrote me, “When I was running ‘Buffy,’ I was surrounded by beautiful, needy, aggressive young women. It felt like I had a disease, like something from a Greek myth. Suddenly I am a powerful producer and the world is laid out at my feet and I can’t touch it.” But he did touch it. He said he understood, “I would have to lie — or conceal some part of the truth — for the rest of my life,” but he did it anyway, hoping that first affair, “would be ENOUGH, that THEN we could move on and outlast it.”

Joss admitted that for the next decade and a half, he hid multiple affairs and a number of inappropriate emotional ones that he had with his actresses, co-workers, fans and friends, while he stayed married to me. He wrote me a letter when our marriage was falling apart, but I still didn’t know the whole truth, and said, “I’ve never loved anyone or wanted to be with anyone in any real or long-term way except for you ever. And I love our life. I love how you are, how we are, who you are and what we’ve done both separately and together, how much fun we have…” He wanted it all; he didn’t want to choose, so he accepted the duality as a part of his life.

Now before I say anything else about this issue or Ms. Cole’s letter, I need to make one thing clear. This letter is just one side of the story. As of this post, Joss Whedon and his people have not commented on this letter. That could change between now and the second after I publish this post.

Also, keep in mind that the person who wrote this letter is an ex-wife who probably isn’t feeling too happy with her former husband. She has reason and incentive, due to his wealth and status, to undermine his reputation. That’s usually all anyone needs to shrug off details, context, and facts.

For that reason, and others I don’t have time to get into, it’s unreasonable to assume that every word of Ms. Cole’s letter is completely true. It’s also just as unreasonable to assume that every word is false. Even if she is bitter, there may very well be elements of truth behind her claims. We’ve seen how hard it is to expose the hard truth of celebrities.

For the sake of exploring the implications, here, let’s assume that at least part of Ms. Cole’s letter is true. Since they are divorcing, it’s entirely plausible that Whedon was not entirely faithful during their marriage.

He’s a big name Hollywood director, armed with obscene amounts of money and influence. If you think for a second that beautiful women aren’t going to throw themselves at someone like that, then I suggest you watch some old Motley Crue music videos. Feminist or not, people are attracted to wealth and power. How else do you explain Mick Jagger having kids with women more than half his age?

I think it’s a near certainty that, at some point in his career, a beautiful young woman has offered herself to Joss Whedon in ways that would make Anastasia Steele blush. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if some just showed up naked at his trailer and offered a guided tour of their vaginas. The only uncertainty is the extent to which Mr. Whedon accepted these offers.

Even if he accepted just one and never did it again, that would still be a major blow to his feminist credentials. Think of it from the perspective of the feminist characters that Mr. Whedon usually champions. What he did would be the antithesis of the narratives he tried to forge with shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Instead, it would basically be the same narrative of at least half of every porno ever made.

In that story, he’s anything but the feminist he claims to be. He’s a powerful man who uses his power and wealth to get sex from the kinds of eager young women who would fail the Bechtal Test on every level. It doesn’t matter that these women willingly offered sex. It still gives the impression that he’s a powerful man who’s using his position to get the kind of sex usually reserved for the villains in a “Mad Max” movie.

According to the letter, Ms. Cole was not an absent force in his life so it wasn’t like she was never around. She makes clear that she helped him with his career. She even contributed in some ways. However, those contributions didn’t stop Whedon from taking advantages of the sexy opportunities that presented themselves, often quite literally.

Whatever the extent of Whedon’s infidelity, if true, it still begs one important question. Does what he did make him a hypocrite in the eyes of feminism? Well, I would argue that it does, but to a very limited extent.

What he did was not very feminist. In fact, it was about as progressive as the setting of “Mad Men.” He plays directly into the narratives he claims to resent. However, he didn’t actively seek that narrative. It sought him. He’s a man. Feminist or not, when beautiful women throw themselves at you, that caveman brain of yours is going to take notice.

In Ms. Cole’s letter, she quoted Mr. Whedon offering an excuse for his behavior. Given what I’ve said about excuses, certain details should be fairly obvious.

When I was running ‘Buffy,’ I was surrounded by beautiful, needy, aggressive young women. It felt like I had a disease, like something from a Greek myth. Suddenly I am a powerful producer and the world is laid out at my feet and I can’t touch it.

That bold portion was my doing. Read it over a few times and think about what he’s saying. Mr. Whedon is implying that the concept of being surrounded by beautiful women wanting to throw themselves at you and feeling inclined to accept their eager offers isn’t just antithetical to feminism. It’s a disease.

That creates a couple of problems, both for his feminist narrative and his depleted excuse bank. One, it implies that, by being a disease, there’s some outside force responsible for his behavior and he’s somehow not responsible. Two, it also implies that a man wanting to enjoy the sexual opportunities that come his way is somehow inherently wrong.

Both of those problems fail miserably within the context of caveman logic and simple human nature. In fact, it even fails within the context of the natural biology of life that prioritizes survival and reproduction. Mr. Whedon did more than enough to acquire abundant resources for survival. Then, opportunities to reproduce follow and nearly every law of nature makes him inclined to use those opportunities.

In that sense, Mr. Whedon is not a hypocrite, but he is misguided in his understanding of sexual dynamics. I don’t deny that he sees himself as a pro-feminist person. However, I think that’s such a huge part of his identity that he’s willing to make more excuses than most to protect it. It’s really no different than what happened with Ted Haggard.

If Joss Whedon weren’t so closely associated with feminism, then the revelation that he might have cheated on his wife probably wouldn’t be news. He would just be another powerful man in Hollywood who enjoyed the fruits of being rich and famous. However, it’s his excuses, as Ms. Cole describes them, that are most telling.

It also reflects the distressing flaws in the kinds of sex-negative feminism that pervade certain parts of Hollywood and mass media. It paints certain sexual dynamics between gender, which are entirely logical within the context of biology, and paints them as flawed.

Now, I don’t deny that the human body has its flaws. Any man who has been kicked in the balls will attest to that. However, attempting to subvert those flaws never ends well. Just ask anyone who has survived gay conversion therapy. Any man or women who thought Mr. Whedon could subvert those same forces in the name of feminism is living in a fantasy world every bit as flawed as “Dollhouse.”

So while I don’t think it’s right to call Mr. Whedon a total hypocrite, I do think his actions, if true, reflect poorly on the principles he’s preached. It also reflects poorly on the brand of feminism that insists that certain male inclinations are inherently wrong. Mr. Whedon may be a great director and a less-than-perfect husband, but he’s still a man at the end of the day. If we acknowledge that, then we don’t need as many excuses.

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Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, Current Events, Reasons and Excuses

Comics, Milkshakes, And (Failing To Fight) Internet Trolls

Before I say anything, I need to make one thing clear. I am extremely reluctant to talk about an issue that’s still fresh, so to speak. In general, I prefer to wait until he uproar has died down and/or the angry masses of the internet have tired themselves out over an issue. I usually find it easier to sift through the rubble after the storm has passed.

This may very well be the most hesitant I’ve ever been to talk about a particular issue. Think about that for a moment. I’m someone who has talked about sex robots, awkward boners, and his own circumcision. If I’m reluctant to talk about a topic, then it must be pretty nasty.

Well, don’t adjust your gag reflex just yet because it’s not that kind of topic. This isn’t something that just sparks revulsion or passionate disagreement. This is the kind of stuff that just brings out the worst in everybody. It’s like licking the shit stains on a toilet before they’ve dried. It just makes a bad topic that much worse.

However, I’m willing to suck in my gut, brace myself, and ignore my reluctance because I feel like this is something that needs to be said while certain people are still listening. Plus, it involves comics and the comic book industry. Other than the erotica/romance industry, few are quite so near and dear to me.

Even those who don’t follow the industry probably noticed an unusual hashtag trending in the news recently. It involved an incident with some of Marvel’s editorial staff. When I first saw it, I had no idea it was a controversy. I thought it was some new promotional effort. Marvel, and most comic companies, do that all the time.

For once, I’m sad to say that this had nothing to do with an ad gimmick. The hashtag in question was #MakeMineMilkshake and it was inspired by this innocent-looking tweet from Heather Antos, who happens to be an editor at Marvel.

I actually saw this on my Twitter feed. I thought it was a nice moment. It put a smile on my face. It involved milkshakes, comics, and cute girls in the comic book industry. I honestly can’t think of something more appealing to me without adding pizza, the beach, or free tickets to a football game.

Then, some asshole internet trolls, of which there are many, had to look at this happy little moment and mess it up for everyone. They did this by replying to the Tweet with a bunch of crude, vulgar comments. I won’t get into the substance of those comments because they’re not worth spreading. I won’t even make an assessment over how bad they were. I’ve been to the many toilets of the internet. I know how bad it can get.

However bad it was, it created a hashtag that has spread like a wildfire and burned away any faith you might have had in humanity, comics, or peoples’ ability to discuss an issue rationally. Like other hashtags before it, #MakeMineMarvel has become a catalyst for two sides of a pointless debate to whine and moan endlessly about how right they are. It’s a debate that nobody can ever win.

The hashtag, which I doubt Ms. Antos intended to start, has created this rage-filled rant on toxic sub-cultures like comics. On one side, you have those claiming that it’s full of angry young men who don’t want to see women screwing up their favorite toys. On the other, you have those who feel like they’re being demonized for comments that just a few idiot trolls made. Again, nobody wins that debate.

It was frustrating to me because, being a man, it made me feel like I’m being lumped in with the same group of assholes and I want no part of that. I didn’t respond to Ms. Antos’ tweet. I didn’t respond to anyone who asked me to respond. This was just a hornet’s nest that I didn’t want to poke.

An abandoned hornet's nest my dad found in his shed that he hadn't been in for a couple years. The head is apart of a wooden statue it fused with.

Then, the hashtag kept trending and people at Marvel and DC, two rival companies mind you, began responding to it. They even made milkshakes into counter-protest, of sorts, using it to fight against internet trolls and toxic subcultures. Considering some of the other protests we’ve seen this past year, I think that’s a fairly innocuous method.

However, the mere fact that this is even a thing speaks to a much larger issue. It’s one of those things where neither side, be it Ms. Antos or those who now despise her, can see the forest from the trees. After it started trending, Ms. Antos posted this tweet and understandably so. There are just certain parts of the internet and certain people who use it that completely warrant that sentiment.

Now, here’s where I start saying things that I know will rub certain people the wrong way. I’m going to try and be very careful with my words here.

I don’t want to start a new hashtag or anything. I also don’t want to get blocked because I follow people like Heather Antos on social media. I’ve said enough dumb things in the past and I’m trying to limit that, especially in these sensitive times we live in. I’ll do my best to be polite about it, but I’m not going to shy away from the truth. I’m just going to add what I hope is meaningful context.

With that in mind, I’d like to send Ms. Antos an important message that I doubt she’ll never read. That same message should apply to others who supported her since #MakeMineMilkshake started trending. Here it is and excuse me while I brace myself with an adamantium shield.

“The trolls have already won. You’re letting them win with every word you say about this issue. PLEASE change the way you fight them.”

I’m going to keep that adamantium shield up just in case, but I know this will probably take some uncomfortable explanations. I’ve talked about dealing with internet trolls before. I’ve also talked about professional trolls who go out of their way to start digital shit storms like this for their own benefit. What I’ve seen with #MakeMineMilkshake is basically a case-study in how not to respond to trolls.

Now, that’s not to say that Ms. Antos’ intentions are misguided. I don’t doubt for a second that she responded to the comments she got in the best way she thought possible. Maybe she didn’t intend for it to start trending. Nobody can really know whether or not something will become a thing, especially if it doesn’t involve cute animals.

Even if #MakeMineMilkshake didn’t start trending, though, Ms. Antos’ response would’ve already ceded some form of victory to the trolls. Like punting on third down in a football game, she didn’t adapt her game plan. Given how quickly this unfolded, I doubt she thought she even needed one.

The problem with turning her response into a hashtag, albeit indirectly, is that doing so gave the trolls exactly what they wanted. With every retweet, response, and cute quip, they get even more. That’s because trolls don’t deal in the traditional currencies of shame, sorrow, and basic human decency. They only understand one form of coin and that’s attention.

It may very well be the most important currency of the digital age. It may even be more than just a currency. It could very well be the life force with which trolls need to sustain themselves. Like Galactus, devourer of worlds, the hunger is never sated. Lacking heralds or The Power Cosmic, these trolls must resort to the lowest lows of the internet to feed their hunger.

With #MakeMineMilkshake, they basically got a free buffet and a complementary desert. I guarantee that once this hashtag started trending, they didn’t cower with fear, dread, or remorse. They’re probably still grinning and twirling their fake mustache. If they could make a collective statement towards Ms. Antos and everyone who came to her defense, this is what they would probably say.

“Ha! I did it! I got under her skin. I made this person who is more successful than I’ll ever be cry out for help, play the victim, and seek validation. They can call me a racist, bigoted, sexist pig all they want. It doesn’t matter. They just proved they’re a bunch of thin-skinned, hyper-sensitive snowflakes. Now, thanks to the hashtag, the world knows it! They know it and it’s all because of me! Mwhahahahahahaha!”

I concede that the evil laughter might be an exaggeration, but since this involves comics, I think it’s appropriate. Internet trolls are the closest thing most of us have to villains. Other than former child stars and the IRS, it’s hard to think of anyone more devious.

It pains me to say it, but the trolls won this round. Ms. Antos, whatever her intentions might have been, gave them what they wanted. She gave them attention and they’re using it. They’re already turning this misguided hashtag into Round 1,283,285,206,809 of the angry alt-right versus the bossy progressive left. It’s a fight that never has any winners.

Again, I know Ms. Antos is never going to read this post. I’m not successful enough or smart enough to have that kind of audience just yet. I’m working on it, but Ms. Antos is so far ahead of me that I can totally understand her not responding to every aspiring writer who tries to add his thoughts to an overly-complex issue. She’s an editor at Marvel. She has far more awesome things to do with her time.

If I could send her a message, though, I would offer her a simple bit of advice. When dealing with trolls, you have countless ways to lose and only a few with which to win. Anything that gives them the slightest bit of attention, no matter how negative, counts as a victory for them and a defeat for you.

To defeat the trolls, the best thing you can do is ignore them. Don’t just instinctively block them, though. Let them whine, yell, and complain with the worst digital drivel they can come up with. Either they’ll get bored or they’ll make an ass of themselves. In either case, you’ll save yourself the frustration and not embolden those who would frustrate you.

If ignoring them isn’t possible, then the second best thing you can do is fight them with kindness. I know that sounds cheesy. I know that sounds like something Superman, Captain America, or Spider-Man would say in an after school special. It still has merit, though. Your capacity for kindness, even to those who insult you, shines a brighter light on the kind of person you are while also exposing the kind of person the troll is.

The worst thing you could do is take what these trolls say and turn them into a rallying cry, of sorts. That doesn’t just give the trolls even more attention. It gives them a larger target to hit. It’s the digital equivalent of Newton’s Third Law. For every action, there is an equal an opposite reaction. With respect to trolls, poking them just makes them poke back harder.

If Ms. Antos is still with me at this point, I thank her. I know there are some who have already decided to block me at this point. I’m hoping I can still reach those willing to listen so here’s my final thought.

Trolls, in whatever form they take, should never be used as a basis to judge larger swaths of a population. Using these trolls to condemn all men, comic book fans, and Twitter users is a huge mistake. It’s basically a bonus to the trolls on top of the attention because it means more will identify with the trolls than their victims. That’s the last thing you want and the last thing the internet needs.

I don’t doubt for a second that there will be other misguided hashtags like #MakeMineMilkshake. I suspect there will be far worse trolling down the line. That’s because people are always going to say stupid shit, both online and in real life. It’s just part of the package that is the human condition. It’s how you react to it that determines whether you’ve saved the day or aided a Skrull agent.


Update: Well, I wrote this post under the assumption that Ms. Antos, or anyone else who is many times more successful than me, would ever read it. I was wrong and I’m more than relieved to say that. Ms. Antos did actually read this post. As a result, there’s something I need to clear up. Several hours after I posted this, Ms. Antos issued the following tweet.

I sincerely thank her for her response and I apologize for the impression that my post had given. In reading it over again, I realize I had implied that she was the one who started the #MakeMineMilkshake hashtag. She did not. I never thought she did, but I implied otherwise. For that, I sincerely apologize. Apparently, I was not careful enough with my words. I’ll try to be mindful of that in the future.

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