Tess Fowler, Brian Wood, Media Manipulation and the Coverage of Misogyny Online
November 17, 2013
During the last week, a number of members of an ongoing story of misogyny in the comic-book industry spoke out online.
In late October, cartoonist Tess Fowler posted a number of tweets supporting writer Brandon Graham’s explanations of misogyny within the comic-book industry. She described her own experience with a then-unnamed, well-known comic-book writer who allegedly feigned interest in her art, hit on her, verbally abused her when she turned him down, and proceeded to abuse her artwork and cosplay choices through Facebook.
Fowler’s assertions received coverage on major comic-book news sites, notably Comics Alliance, which described the issue as, “a damning story of manipulation and verbal abuse, one that it seems would not benefit Fowler to make up”. CA writer Matt Wilson then went on to discuss the difficulty of backing up these kinds of allegations and responding to the issue as a fan, and extrapolated the story to speak about both harassment within the industry and the concept of separating “art from the artist”.
The story truly broke this week when Fowler named her harasser as the relatively-well-known, X-Men writer Brian Wood, who issued a statement clarifying his position (allegedly that while he made a “pass” at her, her rejection was the end of the matter for him). More importantly, he claimed that he’d “kept quiet for these last couple weeks because this is a problematic thing to address without unintended blowback”, and this, plus the fallout from an analysis by The Beat, is where the issue of media manipulation becomes most apparent.
It’s interesting to examine this all as what Ryan Holiday would call a “pseudo-event,” a topic that has become more and more controversial as bloggers throw accusations around despite the lack of new information. This is not to say that Fowler’s account is inaccurate (again, what would she gain from falsely accusing a professional of harassment?), and any kind of discussion of misogyny within these communities should be applauded. What is interesting is that her initial argument, described by Wilson as one against this kind of sexism being common, had created enough coverage and fan-reaction that Wood has both had to respond to the issue and, in the case of The Beat’s article, what he says is inaccurate reporting.