I probably shouldn’t. But then again, I really don’t care.
This past week, I partook in what I think was my first ever Facebook debate, not for anything important, but for posting a link to this article about why retiring the Slave Bikini from Star Wars merchandising is an excellent move. Some people took acceptation to this. And by “some people”, I mean “white dudes” – which hey, full disclosure, I am too.
Anyway, I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of it here. Suffice to say, I am in agreement with the article in question, and others are not, for their own reasons. We won’t ever see eye to eye on that, etc etc. What I want to talk about, however briefly and inadequately, is why I felt the need to so vehemently defend this position.
For the past few years, I’ve been learning more about gender inequality. It was something that I’d always been aware of, but hadn’t really sunk in until – quite honestly – earlier this year when I was watching a movie and realized that all of the female characters in this very serious drama existed only in reference to the male lead. One was his psychiatrist who was consistently stymied by her patient’s quippy comebacks, aghast at the male lead’s Complete Rightness All The Time. Another was the relentlessly doting mother who gave the main character everything, but would be treated to similar quips until she realized she should… give him everything but on his terms? And the other was the cheating ex-fianceé who realized too late how “amazing” this guy was, only to be Righteously Rebuffed in the end. Gag.
Anyway. Before watching this movie, I had long known the talking points behind gender inequality… but for some reason, this dumb movie crystallized things. A friggen movie did this. Not a personal experience, not an anecdote from my wife or another loved one, but an emotionally manipulative bit of drama built to lionize the hardships of a white dude with a medical problem. Kind of screams privilege on all levels, doesn’t it?
So yeah. I experience this shift, in the dumbest, most privileged way possible, and I go about my business. Together with my wife, and a third partner, we start up a comic store. We decided to build it as a place that is mindful of disparity, whether it be gendered, sexual, racial or what-have-you. We do this, because the comics industry is riddled with privilege, and we want to be better. In short order, we discover the only way to do this, is to be active, and mindful, but not cruel. Everyone will have their opinions and tastes, and some of them won’t necessarily line up with yours – and you will need to find a way to balance that out with the way you want to present your business. Our solution? If you want something, yes, of course we will make sure you can get it. But if we’re going to talk about books, or feature them, we want to be mindful that we’re not hitting the parade of best selling white male heroes or creators. In an industry in dire need of diversity, it is important to push, and make people aware of amazing products by amazing people who don’t usually get the spotlight for whatever reason. It is also important to be aware of things like the Slave Bikini from Star Wars, and be mindful of it’s context – and to say something, rather than remain silent. It is also important to speak up against differing opinions, not because the person is coming from a bad place, but because silence, and an adherence to the status quo is how the world got here in the first place.
I know I am absolutely not the advocate for this, but I can, at least, be a helping voice. I can speak, rather than remain silent, and I can challenge not just the ideas of others, but my own. I can try to be better. I do try to be better, and I hope and wish that what little I can do or say helps. I don’t want anything like this to be a victory for me, because white dudes don’t need any more victories, especially in the name of diversity. I just want to be able to lend my voice, and I think that doing so is important, in a small way. And so I do. And I will. Which I guess is how I start yelling at dudes about a costume from a fiction movie for far too long on the internet. But I guess at least I’m saying something.