Monday, July 06, 2015

Comics and confederates

Last Saturday I was listening to Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin talk about March Book Two, the second volume recounting Lewis' participation in the Civil Rights Movement.

There were two things that came up that went along with some thoughts I've been having, and that ultimately relate to the big picture.

One was that Aydin expressed his hope that the book would inspire more activism, and that one area of focus would be student loans and education costs.

For the other, one of the audience questions was about how comics culture is not always a welcoming space. She and Aydin had some back and forth on that topic. You do need to be the change you want to see, which is hard, and certainly one way of doing that is voting with your dollars, but as a woman you only have seven tenths as many dollars available for voting, (which could easily be even less that that if you factor in some culturally necessitated differences in the cost of living).

To her I would mention that I have always felt welcome at Things From Another World (multiple locations) and Floating Planet. They are helpful and kind and glad to see you. So if in the Portland Metro Area you are finding a comic book shop or clientele that is not treating you right, keep looking - there are options. Most of my comic-related socializing happens on-line, and there are great options there too.

That probably seems like a digression, but not as much as you think.

In October I wrote a little about how the groups that frequently acted as agents of change have been weakened. At the time I focused on unions, students, and working-class women:

Since then I have become more aware of how it filters through. You can add non-profit workers to the list. Sure, really luxurious wages would seem inappropriate, but living wages, good health plans, and 401K plans go out the window too. It's similar to way we treat teachers, and add college professors to that list, because without tenure they are treated as completely disposable. The end result is that anyone with any self-interest has to leave, or they are constantly being torn before guilt or fear. If they do make the choice that shows the most commitment to the social good, their end result may very well be dying under a bridge.

I see it in my own accounting. In January I file my taxes and in February I get a refund. In February and March I make contributions to tip jars and crowdfunding. I buy more music and comics, supporting artists. Then that bump is gone. I still see just as many needs, and they would be good things to support, but I can't. There is a general constriction tightening around the good we can do.

Hearts are good. There are a lot of people out there who want to help each other, and would if they could. With very small resources some amazing things still happen, but it is nothing compared to what would happen if we didn't have that glut at the top.

That completely relates to whether a woman or a young girl or a person of color can head into a comic book shop or convention and feel welcome. The comic gatekeepers are pretty similar to the Gamergaters with their aversion to Social Justice Warriors. They're not that different from people clinging to the Confederate flag and calling it heritage. They think they're aggrieved, and if they can just keep someone else below them that at least they will have that, so they help maintain a social order that breaks people in the service of consolidating power. It's stupid and ugly and shows a complete lack of understanding about how everything works.

Sometimes it can be worth taking it on headfirst, and sometimes you really need a rest. Sometimes the people who should be the ones supporting you have their own less overt issues and that can be frustrating.

I still know that there are pockets of calm and support, and that working for it helps those oases spread.

I believe it's worth fighting for.

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