The existence of internet trolls is nothing new. Working on the internet that's one of the first things you familiarize yourself with: trolls are everywhere. They don't only exist in the seedy underbelly of the internet that is 4Chan -- they exist in various forums and social media platforms dedicated to the discussion of comics, too. And if you're a girl working in comics (either making them or are reporting on them) or even a fan who happens to be vocal about the depiction of women in comics, you have probably seen your fair share of trolls.
"MisterE2009" -- whose Twitter comments discriminated against women, were misogynistic and extremely offensive -- were revealed to have been targeting female creators, writers, artists and comic journalists for over two years. Over the weekend "MisterE2009" or "JonVeee," as he is sometimes referred to, was formally called out via Twitter courtesy of comic creators Ron Marz and Mark Millar. Now, many people in the past have stepped up and defended themselves and others against these attacks from this individual, but this was the first time that anyone threatened the anonymous user behind the twitter accounts with legal action.== TEASER ==
Millar has since contacted authorities in California, where the Twitter user lives, and has made an effort to call to arms all the victims of these cyber attacks; asking them to step forward to make a proper case against the man. Let me start off by saying that I don't love KICK-ASS and wasn't crazy about Millar's NEMESIS series. I don't personally believe I am the target audience for a lot of Millar's independent work -- but right now, I feel like his biggest fan. Regardless of whether or not "JonVee" suffers legal ramifications for his actions, his accounts have since been deleted and he's been wiped off the face of the internet -- at least for now. We can all rest easy that this person won't be bothering anyone for the interim, and that's a pretty big win considering what we're dealing with. The internet. A place where you can hide behind a fake name and a fake picture and not have to take any accountability for your actions if you don't want to.
I believe in freedom of speech on the internet. I think it's important. However, I also believe that there are those who use that freedom to hurt other people, and that in itself is a threat to all of our freedoms.
I can't think of the number of times that I've seen "trolling" or comments that are just so misogynistic and just plain awful and turned a blind eye, looking the other way. The fact that I, and so many others, have become so accustomed to seeing commentary like this, and statements of how "X character would totally rape Y character" is a bad sign. When did I become so immune to comments like this? It's as if you are forced to build this invisible cyber-wall against commentary like that because it's both so frequent and just too offensive to deal with. But we have to deal with them, and we have to try to be proactive.
This sort of thing doesn't just happen in comics, either. This behavior is commonplace in online video game communities where woman are explicitly targeted. Back in June, the creator of a Kickstarter project became a target of sexual harassment and cyber bullying after she launched a campaign to get funding for a video series that would explore the stereotypes of women in video games. The creator, Anita Sarkeesian, was attacked. Her wikipedia page vandalized to the point that Wikipedia was forced to lock it down. So should she, and should anyone just accept that it's "just the internet" and that these things will happen? Why should this behavior be tolerated? And why does it feel like it's so heavily embedded in "geek culture"?
OK. So, why am I writing about this on a comic website since it doesn't directly pertain to events in comics? I would argue that it does directly pertain to comics. The bottom line is, the industry is changing. More and more women are taking trips to comic shops and falling in love with characters like Batman and Captain America -- and in turn, they are helping shape and evolve this industry. They are discovering this amazing, creative and vibrant genre that is comics and they are in turn influencing the types of books that you and I read everyday by speaking with their dollars. And frankly, I don't want that influence to dissipate. Today, we have titles that feature strong female characters from both of the big two, and that is a great thing -- and a big improvement from what comics were like 20 years ago. Sure there can be more improvements, but change isn't going to come overnight. So while it doesn't necessarily relate directly to comic books, Comic Vine is an internet community. It's a social platform for people to talk about their favorite books and characters without having to suffer discrimination for their sex, gender or what have you. I for one think it's great that Millar and Marz both stepped up in defense of those people who were being harassed, and I think we should all take a hint from both these gents.
If you want to read more about the events that led up to all of this, check out Heidi MacDonald's THE BEAT where she discusses being directly attacked by the individual as well as Millar's forums. What do you think of all of this? What do you think of online forums dedicated to comics? Feel free to share your experiences below.