Someone smarter than I am once suggested that people seek first to understand, then to be understood.
Over the past day or so, I saw a few reblogs appear that criticized comments and suggestions I made in posts here. I read those responses and talked to a few people about them; I tried to get different perspectives on it and see it in different ways because I have blinders on which mean I don’t see certain things, and I wrote about that a day or so ago. We all have blinders and it’s difficult to recognize where our blind spots are.
As one example, I don’t usually read critical theory. I haven’t read it in any meaningful way since my undergrad days. I only found out about the term kyriarchy when I started a Tumblr account a few months ago. I freely admit there are things I’m not aware of, but I like learning. Kindly forgive me for not knowing about things like tone arguments, intersectionality and the like - I hadn’t heard of them before these responses, and my physical ability over the past day or so has been sufficiently limited that I haven’t been able to look into them (but hey, seriously - if you have a place you’d recommend starting to read, PLEASE tell me - I’m not kidding when I say I love to learn new things - I taught myself how to quilt over the past several years).
So here’s what I understand about the comments from the past few days, and if I’m wrong or misunderstanding anything, please correct me:
- Some people saw some of the advice as condescending.
- Some people thought I was telling them to behave, or be good girls.
- Some people thought the rules of engagement excluded other subjects or concerns, or focused exclusively on straight white women.
- Some people thought the comment about being reasonable instead of angry was questionable.
- Some people thought the comment about communicating in ways that parents or children or English teachers wouldn’t object to excluded them.
- Some people thought that the entire approach was sexist and oppressive.
If I’ve misunderstood any part of this, please correct me.
So here’s where I’m coming from.
I’ve been getting paid to write since before I was a teenager. I spent 15 years doing journalism, half of that at daily newspapers. I spent a decade working in corporate communications, often as a consultant, almost always with Fortune 500 clients. I spent the last several years of my career dealing with organizational change management and the role of communications and training in change initiatives. I freelanced extensively developing ad campaigns and working on marketing and advertising textbooks. My academic background includes extensive studies in sociology, psychology, structural and socio-linguistics, and law. Before becoming disabled, I had been accepted to law school and was looking forward to pursuing my J.D.
In short, I have a very broad range of direct, practical experience with corporate communications and how to use communications to achieve goals.
I never wanted anyone to feel excluded in any way - that’s exactly why I did this, so that people who were frustrated by the situation but didn’t see a way to help could participate in trying to make things better, and had tools they could use to express their frustration in a productive way that would generate results.
I never imagined people would feel controlled or stifled or oppressed by it - if you felt that way, I’m sorry. That was never my intention and it’s actually the opposite of what I tried and hoped to do.
The rules I laid out are communications practices that are remarkably effective and frequently generate the desired results. They are communications practices that are in place at corporations like Time Warner, that are used in counseling, that are used in negotiation. In short, it’s telling a business what’s wrong in a language the business can understand. For those familiar with linguistics, it’s using a different register.
The flip side of that is not speaking their language makes it that much easier for organizations to dismiss valid concerns because it isn’t in their language. Insulting them, cursing at them and the like also make it easy for businesses to dismiss those concerns. I’ve seen this happen first-hand, and it not only results in that message being tossed aside, it makes it more difficult for a business to treat additional comments on the same subject with the proper degree of seriousness. In dealing with matters like this, civility goes a long way toward getting someone to listen.
Likewise, my comment about parents and children and English teachers wasn’t intended to exclude anyone or their life experience - it’s just a slightly different spin on the old adage of whether you’d be embarrassed if your mom saw it, again, pointing out that civility generally works better than hostility. If Dan DiDio had known or practiced that at SDCC, it’s unlikely we’d even be having this conversation. And under the circumstances, civility would place his inappropriate comments and behavior in even sharper relief, making his behavior look even worse, hence the suggestion to be reasonable instead of angry. DiDio already showed DC what anger looked like - in situations like these, contrast helps.
With that said, I understand not everyone has a stereotypically normal family. The point wasn’t making an issue of anyone’s experience, but just to be civil.
I wasn’t trying to tell DC to hire straight white women - I simply wanted DC to hire more women and tell more stories involving women that meet the Bechdel rule, stories that my 10-year-old kid can enjoy and that make her feel included.
In the last 24 hours or so, DC announced they’re making greater efforts to hire women and tell more stories about women. That’s great news and I sincerely hope they follow through. In that same time, some people have been complaining that this means anyone can advocate for anything in the same way, like people in Northstar costumes showing up and arguing for more GLBT characters in comics.
I hope people do. I don’t know if my little girl is going to prefer men, women, neither, both or something else, and I don’t care. I want her to be happy. That’s it. As long as she’s happy, I could care less, but that doesn’t mean I won’t fight for her to be happy, or that I won’t stand by her if society is telling her that she can’t marry or be with the person she loves for some stupid reason.
And here’s the thing of it … the toolbox? The letters? The rules for engagement? All the rest of it? It can be applied to any company, anywhere, for any goal. I tried to make those tools as flexible as possible, so that people can advocate against white-washing movies like “The Last Airbender” or “Akira,” or argue for greater inclusion of trans-gendered people or disabled people or whatever. I tried to make them as flexible as possible so that, even before the idea of Northstar costumes popped up, they could be used for things exactly like advocating for that.
And I hope people do use them to encourage more inclusive media - we live in an amazing world with all sorts of stuff in it that falls outside our individual experiences, and fear controls too much of what people think is moral or ethical; one very effective way to challenge that is through representation in media.
So, to sum up, here’s the tl;dr version:
- I didn’t mean for anyone to feel hurt or excluded.
- If I wrote something that made you feel hurt or excluded, I’m sorry. I never intended or wanted that. I was just trying to put together some tools that people could use to help express themselves in a language that a corporation would understand since I have experience in corporate communications.
- These tools aren’t limited to telling DC to hire and / or tell more stories about women; you can use them for anything at any company, media-related or otherwise. And I hope you do. And if you do, please let me know and I’ll add my voice to yours. I think it’s ridiculous that we live in a world which is so diverse and that this diversity is so incredibly underrepresented in a media that we all obviously love.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I appreciate it.