Archive for November, 2013

Thankful for November

Posted: November 28, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags:

From my childhood on into young adulthood, I did not much like November. I considered it a rather boring month. The political campaigning, which drew to a fever pitch in the first days of the month, did not impress me, and the weather, typically dreary and too often promising snow without delivering enough for skiing, depressed me. Veterans’ Day provided a little light break, typically involving me calling or giving a hug to the vets in my family. And then there was Thanksgiving- fun but a bit stressful at the same time, involving as it did a gathering of my large, loving, loud, and at times deafeningly dysfunctional family.

It seems strange to me that the Thanksgiving holidays from those years that I found most memorable were the ones in which something went wrong. The Thanksgiving we spent in Reno, Nevada, partaking of the buffet at Circus Circus is one example. Meaning no offense to any of the staff there, but that was the driest, most tasteless Thanksgiving dinner I ever had. Another was the year when I had Thanksgiving dinner with just my siblings and our pets. Since we were all broke, our church provided a turkey and a box full of trimmings. I baked up my first pumpkin pie, which turned out surprisingly well. My sister set it out to cool. Then my dog Blue discovered it, and by the time I caught her, she’d eaten half of it. That day, I learned courtesy of the veterinary emergency hotline how to pump a dog’s stomach.

The Thanksgiving dinner we had literally the night before my husband and I got married had all the ingredients for the worst Thanksgiving dinner ever. This time, we had my husband’s family contributing some decibels of dysfunction to our family gathering, and rather than cooking for the whole mob when we had a wedding the next day, we settled for another hotel buffet. Furthermore, both Barry and I had come down hard with colds. But the buffet at the Doubletree Inn by the Boise River was surprisingly good. Everyone got along great. We didn’t have any veterinary emergencies. And for the first time, Thanksgiving stood out in my mind not because of what went wrong, but simply because of what it was. For Barry and me, it was a celebration of what togetherness really means.

I love November now, and everything that comes with it.
I’m thankful for Election Day. I’ve stepped up my observances of Veterans’ Day. And I don’t even mind the weather any more.

A couple of days ago, while I was slogging through all those mil-scam messages, I spotted a video posted on my Facebook timeline that made my day. Sexism in the comic book industry will not go away without people like you bringing it to light.

For doing your part and helping start the conversation, thank you, Ms. Scherbina!

Valor, Hearts, Money, and the People who Steal Them pt. 5.

At this point, I think I’ll need to create an entire category just for exposing the mil-scammers, because- to paraphrase Casey Kasem- these hits just keep on coming.

mikejones

This guy calls himself “Mike Jones,” but I sure as all get out don’t see any last name where it should be. He claims to be from Chicago, Illinois, and he says he loves meeting new people around the world. I sure bet he does. It’s tough to swindle total strangers, after all.

Anyway, Mike “No Name” Jones sent me this message:

how are you doing Valerie? i saw your comment on cup of joe. you look real good and adoring, cant wait to drop you a message. i will love to hear back from you dear

So this guy is trawling veterans’ charity sites, such as Cup of Joe for a Joe, looking for possible marks. This rather alarmed and angered me, but I wish I could say it was a surprise. There is no level too low for scammers like this to stoop. On checking out No Name’s profile, I noticed he had eight Facebook “friends,” all of them women, and only one from the Chicago area.

I responded telling him that I volunteer in veterans’ advocacy, and also that I’m married and work on exposing military dating scams. But I suppose I also need to keep getting the message out to his targets and those of scum like him that sweet, compassionate patriotic ladies who prefer to assume the best of people are far too good for a guy who takes selfies of him wearing the uniform wrong.

kevinlarry

Now I invite all my friends in the military to have fun picking apart this picture. “Kevin Larry,” supposedly seen here, sent me the following message:

hello there how are you doing..i am new here trying to look for old friends i just sow your profile and i like it i will love to know you good. Well how can I describe myself? I am a friendly, and loves to talk, and make friends, I am a person who generally gets along with people.Well, I am looking to meet new people, who are fun to be with, and know how to enjoy life.Well my interests are meeting new people and making friends,going to the gym, love reading, singing, dancing,love shopping like every other person, eating out, I could love to go on and on, but I think I am going to stop right here, hope to here from you soon

Of course, I checked his profile. He claimed to live in New York City, but didn’t seem to have any friends there. He allegedly used to live in Empire, California, but again didn’t have any friends there. The only employer he listed was “government.” An arsenal of hearts, puppy dogs, and teddy bears sporting sappy declarations of love made up nearly half of his pics. Doubtless, he used those to distract his Facebook “friends” – nearly all of whom are women – with a display of heart melting sweetness.

One of his “friends” said that he was looking for a woman to be a mother to his children. I believe that this former profile picture of his expresses his real desire more honestly.

kevinlarrysdesire

Due to expecting a message from a potential writing contact, I decided to check my “other” message folder on Facebook. I hadn’t received the anticipated message yet, but I was not prepared to see so many messages from strange men completely dazzled by my charm and beauty. Of course I became immediately suspicious.

“Hanks Miller” claims to be a West Point graduate and a captain in the US Army. Since his pictures show a man in uniform with the last name of Miller, it’s apparent he’s done some homework.

hanksmiller

He just apparently didn’t do much homework in English, judging by the message he sent me.

Hello Sweettie,

You look cute and your profile picture attracts me to know you more, i am single and i am new in this site, i was married but i lost my wife about 2 years ago and i am left with my little daughter Courtney whom is in USA under the care of a nanny. i am 48 years and i wish to have a good relationship with a woman, whom is good, caring and has a good understanding.i will like to know you that is why i send you this message, please send me a message and tell me little about yourself.

Regards Hanks

I’m contemplating sending the following in response:

Dear “Capt. Miller,”

Aw, shucks. I bet you say that to all the girls… literally. It looks like you sent the same message out en masse to see who’d take the bait. If you had really seen my profile, you’d know that I’m married and uninterested in anyone else calling me “sweettie.” You’d figure that, as a writer, I’m not won over with such bad spelling, grammar, and punctuation. You would have also seen a link to this blog, where I frequently expose military frauds like you. Yeah. I’m not such a “sweettie” any more, am I? Consider your account reported and your marks notified, you fake.

Sincerely,

A woman far too smart for you

I was glad to see evidence that there are other similarly intelligent people on Facebook. “Hoffman Barry,” who was allegedly pictured in ACU standing next to a humvee, sent a message beginning with, “Hello, Beautiful, how are you doing?” When I clicked it, I saw, “This message is no longer available because it was identified as abusive or marked as spam.”

I only wish every military spammer/scammer was reported like this.

The most common rules for avoiding sexual harassment include the following:

  1. Keep your distance from members of the whispernet’s black list.
  2. If you want to only discuss your work, you don’t need to go to anyone’s room.
  3. Be careful what you say to any comic book creator.
  4. Be careful what you wear.
  5. Don’t talk about sexual harassment.

I would add another. If you’re invited to join an artist’s super-secret on line inner circle, you’re not allowed to discuss what happens in the circle to outsiders, and you’re not allowed to report or block offensive posts, decline.

Of course, all those rules are nonsense, as they place the burden of responsibility on the wrong people. They should read:

  1. If you have trouble keeping your hands to yourself, keep your distance from other people.
  2. If someone wants to discuss their work, let them do so wherever they are. Don’t invite them to your room.
  3. Don’t twist people’s words around and blame them for hitting on you.
  4. Even if a person’s walking around naked, you’re still not allowed to sexually harass them.
  5. If you make a pass at someone, and they say no, be a good sport about it. If someone wants only to be friends or professional colleagues, that’s much better than them being your accuser.
  6. If someone says they’re being sexually harassed, take them seriously. Don’t shift the blame onto them, and especially do not sexually harass them.
  7. If someone in your super-secret inner circle is being harassed, and you do not allow them recourse outside your circle, it’s up to you to tell the perpetrators to stop it and kick them out if they don’t.

I was invited to join the on line “inner circle” of a very big name artist. Out of respect for his family, our mutual friends, and for the friendship we once had, I will not use his real name. But out of well warranted disrespect for what he allowed to happen in that circle we can dub him something ridiculous like Illuminatus Bilderberg Totenesser von Finklestein. I’ll call him Fink for short. I had a gut feeling accepting his invitation might not be a good idea. After all, rule number one there was to not talk about the group to outsiders. I also was not allowed to report or block other posts or members. However, I also trusted that the Fink would not let anything bad happen, so I joined.

We had some fun goofing around with movie titles. (I thought Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon over Parador and Fifty Shades of the Grey were pretty funny.) We poked good-natured fun at politicians and other worthy people, and I was beginning to enjoy myself.

Then another artist I’ll call Charlie Foxtrot posted a picture of a drawing Tess Fowler did, and commented that she didn’t have any feminist- or as he called it “feminazi”- credibility because she drew a nude woman. By this, Charlie of course meant that just because Tess Fowler drew a nude, she somehow lost the right to complain about Brian Wood or anyone else sexually harassing her.

Of course I disagreed and kept disagreeing as Charlie and a chorus of male sympathizers offered more and more excuses for Wood’s behavior. “He was just trying to get his meat wet,” he said.

Excuses turned into false accusations against me. “What, you think a guy can’t even ask a girl out?” Then came the demeaning language, especially courtesy of a guy I’ll call Darryl Lipschitz. He chose to only address me as “chicky,” “sweetums,” and other insultingly saccharine, emetic terms especially after I made it clear I prefer simply being called “Valerie.” I’m only slightly exaggerating, calling them emetic. Over the course of this unpleasant exchange, I felt increasingly nauseated and I nearly did throw up. That happens sometimes when I’m really upset. I responded to the increasing barrage of insults, lame excuses, and false accusations- I’m only somewhat sorry to admit- with equally insulting language of the sort I don’t usually use. They needed to know that funny business ended the moment Charlie started insulting women who stand up against sexually predatory behavior, and that their behavior was genuinely unacceptable and needed to stop.

Fink knew all along that the whole ugly situation distressed me greatly, but rather than take a stand in favor of honoring a woman’s right to say no or using his authority as a big name creator and founder of the group to stand up for a fan and a friend, he blamed me for bringing people down. I don’t like being the bearer of bad news, but the group was taking on a creepy He-Man Woman Haters’ Club, bros before hos vibe, and somebody had to try to do something about it. Fink then kicked me out, even claiming that it was for my own good.

It would have been bad enough had it ended there.

First, Charlie Foxtrot sent me a private message claiming he’d sincerely apologize for what he’d done, but, as he gleefully admitted, he wasn’t sorry. This was after I’d already told him in the group to leave me alone. I told him again. So far, it appears he finally got the message.

Adam Kast, a member of Charlie Foxtrot’s chorus, didn’t get it. He sent me repeated messages he knew were unwelcome, making numerous propositions involving me, my husband, and (urg!) him. I told him just as persistently to leave me alone. For some odd reason, I could not block him, and I needed my messager on for work related reasons. I knew he didn’t mean a thing he said, but using sexual propositions as a weapon to deliberately distress people is still sexual harassment, and at that point, I was beginning to get scared every time anyone sent me a message. I don’t like being scared. Something like that calls for dramatic action. So I did the only other thing I could think of. I’m using Adam Kast’s real name because I already called him out for his behavior in public.

Proving that we really need to have an open and serious discussion on sexual harassment and stop protecting the perpetrators, it worked. He stopped contacting me immediately. And then I succeeded in blocking him.

As for those for whom I used pseudonyms, I don’t think they’re complete fools. If they see this, they’ll likely suspect I’m referring to them. A lot of other people might, too. Some may be right, some not, but regardless, if you even suspect you see yourself in here, just know that it’s easier to stop sexual harassment yourself rather than rely on others to make you.

Finally, lest somebody write experiences like this off as typical for being a woman in a male-dominated field, I’m no stranger to working in a number of similarly male-dominated professions. But never while working in firefighting, EMS, or even construction did I ever experience treatment this bad. So what’s the comic book industry’s excuse? Nothing.

No, I’m not referring to a Kindle reading device that’s suddenly making a lot of noise. That would be a lot more fun to write about. Rather, I’m referring to the culture of misogyny in the comic book industry and the code of silence that allows sexual harassment to continue. People would talk about who to avoid only in whispers and advise new comic book creators to avoid being alone with one writer or be careful talking with another artist, but wouldn’t do anything else. Out of fear of reprisal, of being labelled a troublemaker, of being doubted, defamed, and perhaps eventually driven out of work, women would simply appear to go along and get along.

Not any more. Some people are breaking that code of silence and even beginning to name perpetrators, and I say it’s about time.

These links will show you stories of exactly what women used to take as a regular occupational hazard. Only when we stop treating sexual harassment like a regular occupational hazard and combat it wherever people commit it- whether in the offices of Marvel and DC or the lines at any convention- will we make any headway against the misogyny we all claim to oppose.

We’ll start with a message from the woman who helped start the current conversation. While Tess Fowler was a lot nicer to the offender than I think anyone should be, especially in the twenty-first century, she did nevertheless name him- and is taking monumental heat for it.

http://tessfowler.tumblr.com/post/67091692836/my-response

Anne Scherbina was inspired to post about her experience working for DC here.

http://annescherbina.tumblr.com/post/67605016682/harassment-in-comics

There is also a whole lot more. Even I experienced the sting of misogyny. Up until recently, I counted myself lucky that the worst of it I got was people assuming my husband wrote all the books sitting on my table, and ignoring me.

Not any more. It got a lot worse, and I’ll tell you more as soon as soon as I’m certain discussing it won’t hurt my work.