DEAR MEN IN COMICS:
THE COST FOR WOMEN IN COMICS OF DOING BUSINESS IS TOO HIGH.
You need to help lower the price of women doing business in comics and in comics fandom to only the hard work. Not the hard work plus ducking threats online and off of violence, dodging groping, inappropriate advances, joking at the expense of the fat girl, the not “hot” girl, picking up and carrying around the short girl, creepshotting the cosplayer, stalking the professional.
You know, sexism. Violence. Attacks intended to create doubt and fear.
THE COST FOR WOMEN IN COMICS OF DOING BUSINESS IS TOO DAMN HIGH.
CALL OUT OTHER GUYS. If women doing this for themselves really really worked, I wouldn’t have to be saying this.
Start culling guys from your personal and professional circles that are bad citizens, that you have to apologize for.
CALL OUT MISOGYNY AND SEXISM. Intervene. Speak up. Vocally reject things like the “Big Cans” promotion at NYCC on your blogs, Twitter, tumblr, Facebook, right then and there when it happens.
THE COST FOR WOMEN IN COMICS OF DOING BUSINESS IS TOO DAMN HIGH. We’ve been paying and paying. I’ve paid with my health, self-esteem, and sense of safety. Other women have paid more.
THE COST FOR WOMEN IN COMICS OF DOING BUSINESS IS TOO FUCKING HIGH.
Men, help us lower that cost so it’s the SAME AS YOURS: hard work.
(Please share the hell out of this>)
Well, guess I have no choice but to give it a go.
Are you full of confidence or have you ever suffered from Impostor Syndrome? Tell us all about it.
I love learning new words. Love. Nerdy, I know, but there really are few things like expanding ones vocabulary. Especially when the words you learn can be used to explain previously undefinable phenomenon in your life.
Take the phrase “Impostor Syndrome,” a term I just learned today. While I am generally against self diagnosing, this is probably the best term I’ve seen for describing my own relationship with success and failure.
Impostor Syndrome: The impostor syndrome, sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.
Now, I’ve had a few successes in my life. It’d be an outright lie to pretend otherwise. I’ve graduated from college. I’ve organized charity events that raised considerable amounts of money. I learned how to make some damn fine French Toast. I am awash in small success stories and victories.
But that’s just it, isn’t it? My successes feel so small. So insignificant in light of only my failures and flaws. I’ve been out of college for a while and I still don’t have a job. I never did manage to learn how to draw. I think my writing sucks. I lack so much knowledge in so many things that someone at my age should know. I’m woefully unable to express myself at times. I struggle to focus on anything ever. My successes feel almost like I was cheating. Like I punched in some secret code that made me temporarily invincible in the face of life’s challenges.
And yet, everyone claims I have so much potential. I’d love to be able to be able to say I see whatever they see, but I don’t. And compared to them, I always feel so, so small.
So yeah. I guess I’m an impostor. A damn great liar walking through life hoping I fool the right people. But I gotta tell you… I’d be something real.
I am not a strong person.
Weird thing to say, yeah? It’s the sort of thing that we’re warned against saying to ourselves from a very young age. Even in a world that is ever ready to convince us that we are ugly, stupid, uncultured, or just plain weak and is all too ready to prey on those insecurities, we are told to think highly of ourselves. To repeat as many mantras and idioms and affirming Instagram memes as necessary to convince ourselves that we are beautiful, intelligent, witty, insightful, and strong in spite of whatever real or imagined evidence to the contrary. It’s a weird tightrope to walk, and all too often does maintaining balance involve lying to yourself and pretending everything is okay.
Well, dear reader, I would like to take a moment to step off the tightrope and admit here, as honestly as I know how, that I am not a strong person. Quite the opposite, I am hopelessly, perpetually, sometimes comically, weak.
It’s not for a lack of trying, mind you. My life has largely been an exercise in trying to find strength. Since I was seven years old, and admitted to my mother through tears, that I felt alone, sad, and empty. That moment was when, even though I did not have a name for it at the time, my battle with depression began, and I started on the long road to finding strength.
Now I should take a moment to explain what depression is. Depression is a mental disorder characterized by a pervasive and persistent low mood that is accompanied by low self-esteem and by a loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities. You probably have some image of what a person who is depressed looks like. You see them sitting alone, head planted firmly one arm or both, staring longingly out the window or at the ceiling or at the wall or at nothing with the most impossibly sad expression a human face can muster. They say nothing beyond the odd sigh or agonized moan for the most part, and if they do speak, it is with a ghostly voice devoid of all life.
There’s a level of truth here. My middle and high school years were spent with my head buried in my arms or a journal I carried around during class, and some of my most vivid memories of those years involve me being miserable. However, the thing about depression is that it isn’t always visible; it doesn’t always manifest itself as an outward display of pure SADNESS. Often, it’s buried beneath the surface, gnawing at you. Most often, it’s not a sadness at all, but a numbness.
I do the same things most people do. I play video games. I obsess over my favorite TV shows (Season 4 of “Game of Thrones” April 6! Woot woot!). I go out with friends. I’m a somewhat avid reader. I cook things…I make valiant attempts at cooking things. I laugh. I joke. I work. I contemplate life and the order of the universe. I live a totally normal life most days. However, this living is often done without any sort of feeling at all. Even when I’m out with loved ones, doing the things that are supposed bring us joy and create memories and are the exact opposite of what we think of when we think of depression, it not uncommon for me to be completely out of it. Like none of what I’m experiencing is real, and I’m simply watching a movie of someone’s life rather than being an active participant.
This numbness existed within me even as a child, and it was then that I realized that I must be lacking in some kind of strength. Because strong people, from what I could see, were never numb. They not only felt things, but felt them intensely and passionately and constantly. People with strength were funny, vibrant, confident, smart, beautiful, and shining examples of humanity. In other words, strong people were all the things I was not. All the things I needed to be to cure all the nothing I was feeling.
So I reached out. I went to just about every “strong” person I could find to get some insight into how to overcome this monster I was fighting and become more like them: my parents, my siblings, my teachers, kids at school, counselors, ministers, anyone who would listen and perhaps offer some insight. I followed their advice too. I read books, watched videos, prayed, exercised, stared at myself in the mirror and repeated life affirming messages at myself. All in the hopes of lifting my mood, raising my self-esteem, and finding some semblance of the strength I craved.
I took a couple things away from these experiences. Chief among them is that depression is really freaking hard to explain to others. When I was younger, I surmised it was just due to a lack of vocabulary - which, no doubt, was a factor - but it has not gotten any easier as I’ve gotten older. I believe this is because no amount of words can adequately make another experience your emotions. We can get close - the best writers, orators, musicians, and actors in the world get damn close - but no one quite nails it. Part of this is just because of how we experience life; we’re super self centered. To quote David Foster Wallace, “Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.” Knowing this, that you experience your own emotions in their realest, purest form and that the emotions of others have to be communicated to you - and thus, filtered through your own personal biases, feelings, and sense of empathy - it should come as no surprise that some are hesitant to believe you when you say “I feel sad all the time” and they see no tangible reason for why you should be.
It is a strange and uncomfortable moment, and one I’m well acquainted with. There’s nothing worst than baring yourself entirely, fully vulnerable, trying to communicate the well of emptiness, sadness, and hopelessness inside of you and watch as the person you’re talking to appears to just not get it. Being fed the same sayings and advice you’ve heard and practiced again and again but never seem to translate to real world results and getting frustrated, and then watching as they get frustrated as you in turn don’t seem to be getting it.
Eventually, the frustration gives way to guilt. You start to feel guilty because things just never click for you. All of the well meaning advice and banal sayings become so impersonal. People become the enemy, trying to condescend to you and mitigate all the intensely real things you’re feeling. Seeking advice eventually stops being a way to find refuge and strength, and more an easy way to be reminded of how weak you are.
And so you retreat. Deep into the recesses of your mind. Deep into the emptiness. Deep, deep down into all of that shit. Because even though you feel like crap, at least it’s real. At least you can trust it. At least you’re safe.
It’s a deceptive kind of safety, of course. Because you know, at least on some rational level, that how you’re feeling is problematic. That you can’t live everyday feeling like death and hating yourself for it. But you eventually become so acutely aware of other people and their reactions to you and their possible expectations and perceptions of you that retreating into that pit feels so much better than opening yourself up again. Trying to explain things you can’t really explain again.
How do you explain to your family that you constantly question whether or not they even like - let alone love - you? That they all feel like strangers? That they - not the people out in the big, bad world - are the source of so much of your guilt and self-doubt?
How do you explain to your friends that you feel that they only keep you around out of pity and have never seen you as an equal?
How do you explain that the reason you don’t drink is that you watched alcohol and drugs kill your father and you know that you’re not strong enough to avoid the same fate?
How do you explain that you’ve never been in a relationship because the idea of you being desirable to anyone as you are comes across as laughable?
How do you explain that you don’t even feel like a real person because you feel your words have no value to anyone?
How do you explain that the highlight of most of your days as a teen was any day you managed to go a full 24 hours without thinking about killing yourself? That the only thing that kept you from pulling the trigger was not the love of others or inner strength or any of those nice things, but the fear of death and what lies beyond?
How do you explain that even as an adult, you stare in the mirror and struggle to like what you see?
How do you explain that you feel like no matter what you do in life, you will fail? That success is a mirage reserved for your betters?
How do you explain that your emotions, your very being, feel wrong? That you feel guilty for simply existing as you are because this thing you’re struggling with feels so petty and small compared the issues of others?
How do you explain that simply having and expressing any emotions at all make you feel like less of a man?
Well, if you’re me, you don’t explain any of this. Rather than even attempt to broach the subject, you bury it all away. You bury it and you put on the mask of strength and keep on keeping on. You don’t open yourself up to people in any real way. You don’t risk the messiness of relationships. You keep parts of yourself, your thoughts and feelings and desires, hidden. You stick with the pain that’s comfortable. You remain weak.
Now, before I reach the end here, I want to say that I share all this not to admonish the people in my life. I know some pretty amazing people, and even if I do not feel or understand their love, I know that it is there.
This is also not to garner sympathy. I’m quite fine with that reality that anyone and everyone who reads this could walk away from it thinking I’m the biggest douche ever. It’s the risk you take with the internet.
I share this because I’m at a point in my life where I need to share it. Not only so I can confront these realities for myself, but because of the possibility that maybe someone else will read this from inside their own pit and feel just a little less alone. Feel that they are a little more real. That possibility, however small, is worth being honest for once.
I wish I could give this some kind of feel good ending. Some life-affirming statement that you, my dear reader, could walk away with. But the truth is I cannot. It wouldn’t be honest. My struggle isn’t over. I’m still in the pit, fighting everyday to feel real and feel that it is okay to have these emotions. To hope that one day, I won’t have to wear the mask.
Until that day, I’ll keep walking this tightrope same as everyone else. Putting on that mask and trying to “fake it till I make it.” I walk through life pretending to be strong, while knowing that I am not.
I am hopelessly…perpetually…sometimes comically…weak. But I’m still here. That’s gotta count for something, yeah?
That’s a Lego Batgirl Keychain. And I’m giving one away. Like, reblog or leave a comment on this post by midnight EST Monday February 24 and you’re entered.