Allison Types: Blood on the Tracks

Mon, April 21st, 2014 at 2:58pm PDT

Comic Books
Allison Baker, Contributor

This is what chauvinism looks like... on a T-shirt.

A very badly designed T-shirt, I will add, but I'm guessing the modern male chauvinist probably isn't the snappiest of dressers. It doesn't even make any sense or approach being funny. But there it is. Existing.

But its mere existence isn't what really bothers me. Apparently Tankhead Custom Tees at WonderCon this past weekend thought there was a market to sell male chauvinism on a T-shirt. Reinforcing the idea that it's okay to denigrate someone because of their sex. So okay, in fact, someone thought someone else would want to wear it on a T-shirt.

And that's a real problem. As a culture we've made prejudice okay. Not just in comics, not just in tech, not just in gaming, or film and TV, or politics. Prejudice is a social norm in our society that is reinforced by us when we make assumptions and put people in boxes based on what we think to be typical or normal. And it's everywhere.

I recently shared an article written by my friend Andy Khouri concerning the most recent round of rape threats from various men on the Internet who had been outraged by Janelle Asselin's critique of the new "Teen Titans" #1 cover. In response to Andy's article, one male comic artist said:

"Until this was made public knowledge I never would have imagined it was a thing, much less a common thing. The mind boggles."

The sad thing is that it is common, this happens all the time. I know because I'm a woman. And as a woman working and existing on this planet, I've been talked down to, cat called, sexually harassed, and threatened with violence. All of these actions are attempts to prevent me from achieving power. All are attempts to prevent me from getting to where I want to be.

And they work. I can't really explain it, but whenever confronted with one of these "road blocks," I'm made to feel small and afraid. So how do you think women felt when they saw that T-shirt on the con floor? What did the 10 year-old girl dressed up as Supergirl think? Or the 30 year-old female comic creator? How did that make them feel?

And we wonder why there aren't more women film directors, comic and TV writers, elected officials, CEO's -- basically, more women in charge.

I don't wonder, I know why.

I really think Neil DeGrasse Tyson said it best when former Treasury Secretary and Harvard University President Lawrence Summers suggested that genetic differences might explain why there are fewer girls in science.

Genetic differences must be the reason! Right?!

"The fact that I wanted to be a scientist and astrophysicist was hands down the path of most resistance through the forces of... society. Anytime I expressed these interests, teachers would say, 'Don't you want to be an athlete?' I wanted to become something that was out of the paradigms expectation of the people in power..."

[...]

"Now here I am, one, I think, one of the most visible scientists in the land, and I want to look behind me and say. 'Where are the others who might have been this?' And they're not there. And I wonder who, where is the blood on the tracks, that I happen to survive and others did not, simply because the forces of society prevent it at EVERY turn. At every turn."

[...]

"So my life experience tells me that when you don't find blacks in the sciences, you don't find women in the sciences, I know that these forces are real and I had to survive them to get where I am today. So before we start talking about genetic differences you've got to come up with a system where there is equal opportunity. Then we can have that conversation."

Do me a favor. The next time you see a woman or a person of color in a position or career historically dominated by white males, remember they had to fight tooth and nail against what society as a whole thought they should do.

Every single day.

Let's show some respect. It's harder than it looks.

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