ECCC, Superman and Shame.

7 Apr

Last weekend I went to Emerald City Comic Con.  I saw some amazing cosplay but being me I didn’t take any pictures.  I just didn’t think about it.  I had never been before and it was all a bit overwhelming. There are SO MANY PEOPLE! You could hardly get thru some places. Even Friday was packed. I started the day Friday by myself so I decided to take things slow and sit in on a couple panels. That was not the best of introductions to ECCC…

I attended a panel entitled Women Comically Portrayed.  I am one of those people who love panels and it sounded promising.  Now these are good panels and there are crappy panels. The quality is often determined by the This particular panel had potential – 2 comic book artists, 3 comic book fans and 3 psychologists/counselors (there was over lap so a total of 5 panelists).  Sadly the potential was utterly destroyed.

Now lets back up to a bit earlier in the week when this image crossed my Facebook feed:


In my world this is flat out body/slut shaming. Making a value judgement based on the way a person is dressed is body shaming.  Some peoples justification for their criticism of her was that her clothing choices are not respectable.


“Respect: esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personally quality or ability”

Now fast forward to ECCC.

The bulk of the panel addressed how comic book artists commonly portray women scantily clad, in impossible costumes and poses.  This is a well know objection to comic book art.  But why are these costumes objectionable? The common argument are they are impractical, unrealistic and objectify women’s bodies.  This was the view the panelists put forth.

Panelist #2 was a counselor who works with at risk youth and victims of sex trafficking. Her main concern with comic book art is that it needlessly objectifies women’s bodies which leads to low self esteem and thus vulnerability to predators.  Pretty much well established observations.  Now came the major misstep. She asserted that women in comic books should be clothed respectfully. To quote “its about respect”. She further emphasized her point by using a male comparison saying “I don’t want to see a man in a Speedo” to which a fellow panelist snickered and agreed.

Lets break this down.

“I don’t want to see…”  So, if Superman wears a Speedo, she doesn’t want to see it. So should Superman go home and change? Should he take his costume back to the designer and say “Some women don’t like my costume!”? NO! Her desire to not see him does not take precedence over his right to wear his Speedo. He is not wearing it for her. He made the choice of how to cloth himself and its no one’s choice but his.

Now to the Speedo. So, if Superman wears a Speedo does this mean he is less respectable? He is still Superman. He still saves lives, flies around and is the alien hero we all know. He is still respectable by all accounts. Say its not the red Speedo but a plain black one and he is walking around a beach. Still Superman. Say its a little too snug and a bit revealing. Still Superman. Say Superman took a break, had a few beers and missed his waxing appointment. Still Superman. He still did all those things, regardless of what he is wearing or how he looks.

Now lets imagine this is Wonderwoman. Does anything change? No.

Respect should not be based on a persons clothing choices. Clothing comes off but the person you are stays the same. This panelist, of all people, should know this. The costume of a prostitute and a superhero are no different.  Its just cloths. The only thing you can tell is possibly their profession. But you can’t tell why they are in that profession and without knowing the whys and hows you have no right to make a value judgement. (To be clear I don’t believe its a good idea to make a value judgement regardless of a persons profession but that is a stickier matter). A basic level of respect is something all people deserve regardless of clothing or any other external quality.

Sadly the experience of this panel soured my day and I had to leave the panel. It didn’t seem to be getting better and I couldn’t listen to more shaming. I understand people make missteps or are misunderstood ESPECIALLY where issues of gender and discrimination are concerned. The lesson here for me is sexism goes both ways. Its not effective to boost one gender up by shaming the another gender.

All in all I had a great time, bought some beautiful art and left excited for next year. One bad experience will never dissuade me from attending the event. Will I wear a costume next year? Hmm… Getting around is so hard that I hesitate but who knows. My love of costumes may prevail.


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