During a podcast for Webcomics Beacon (with fellow journal comickers Lezley Davidson and Ryan Dow), something came up that stuck in my craw. Well, to be honest, it’s something that’s always irked me. Creator (and co-host) Tanya Higgins mentioned that she had received an email accusing her of being a man writing a woman unrealistically, that her character was just male wish-fulfillment because she liked sex and video games, and “real women” weren’t like that.
No! Bad! <water squirt>
I try to put positivity out as much as I can, so here’s my attempt to do so on a behavior I find incredibly problematic.
When one creates a journal or autobiographical comic, that author is saying that the essence of the comic is true. There is a spectrum of how much is edited, but at the core it is the author’s lived experience that is being displayed to you. It is both real and subjective, but it is the essence of the author’s experience and of the author’s self.
Keeping this in mind, when you tell an author “this doesn’t exist” you are cutting at the person’s very essence; you are saying the author’s lived experience is not valid, and not real. No matter how important you think your opinion is, it is a violence to do this. You have crossed a line, possibly without knowing it.
Whether it is realized or not, accusing those who have experiences outside of yours of fabrication is a method of control. (Didn’t even know you were working for “Big Brother*”, did you?) When you say someone doesn’t exist when they do, you are telling that person NOT to exist. Because they do exist, you are telling them they are wrong, that they have no place in society, or even nature. Are you that cruel? Gentle reader, I don’t think you are.
In the podcast it was about a sex-loving, game-playing woman, so off-the-cuff I gave utmost props to those ladies, but here’s the thing: it’s not just them, it’s everyone who deserves that acknowledgement. It’s the ladies who are geeks and hate video games, it’s the ladies who love homemaking, it’s the guys who love homemaking, it’s the people who want sex and the people who don’t, it’s the people who are marginalized by society for the way they were born and how they choose to express themselves but it is also the people who “fit in” because nobody really fits in, they only fit “better”. When you say the “freakiest freak” doesn’t exist, you put yourself up for the same voiding. The idea of normalcy is a phantasm, a dream, at once seemingly quantifiable yet always intangible. It is not worth it.
When you see something that conflicts with your experience, you can choose to contemplate it, and maybe make your world a little bigger. Or you can move on (you can, maybe your world is big enough, whatevs). What you should not do is strike out against this new thing with “this doesn’t exist” or the like.
I see so much time wasted on telling other people they don’t exist, and they’re not “doing it right,” and they’re not “properly representing blah-blah-blah-I-stopped-listening”. I frequently ask myself, “what if even a portion of this time was used for creation?” Do you not think you’re being represented? DIY, my lovelies, you are even on the internet already! Being the change you wish to see is not sentimental bullshit. More is more. The more voices saying “this is my life, and that’s what I like, not better or worse” the less alienation. I know that sounds naïve, but it’s my experience that it is true.
*Sometimes Big Brother is a Sister, or maybe a Robot, or an Idea, you get me.
Author’s note: This is mostly directed at readers, but I hope creators will take some comfort in it as well. And all creators are readers, and readers may create anyway.
This is specifically about autobiographical works of a subjective nature. Fictional works, biographies, and how to handle factual discrepancies in autobiographical works are different areas and not addressed. The conflicts that may arise between subjects in an autobiographical work aren’t addressed either. I think all of those could make good future essays, and I encourage anyone to write on them.
Yes, of course I mean people whose behavior isn’t harmful to others. No, it is not a creator’s problem if their work makes you feel awkward about a particular subject matter, nor that inspiring awkwardness is some sort of violation. Also, the only slippery slopes I’m interested in are in Colorado, so please, you know, just please go create something cool instead.