When Silence Is Self-Care In Comics Culture

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Carrie Mae Weems: Roaming, 2006

I. Self-Care in Silence

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’ve grown quieter about comics over the last few months. After my speech this past November at UNLV, I felt empty. But even when I regained strength I remained quiet. Was I uninspired? Was I being lazy? Whether I couldn’t really tell, or I wasn’t being honest with myself, it took reading Kim O’Connor’s Don’t Be a Dick: Tips and Tricks for How to Talk About Comics piece on Comics and Cola for the reason to become clear to me:

I’m writing today because I think I know the answer to a question that comics types revisit every so often: Why aren’t there more people writing comics crit?

Some of the reasons are universal. (There’s no money in it. There’s no real audience.) Others are huge, but not universal, like systemic racism and sexism. On top of all that there’s another, more nebulous obstacle that some of us experience, and that’s the fact that comics promotes a culture in which people feel way too comfortable acting like total dicks to complete strangers.

When I read those words from Kim, it felt as if she knew what I’ve been fearing all this time. Like she was speaking directly to me. I know I’m not alone. It hurts to see people get harassed for calling out problematic elements in comics. I love comic books. There’s no doubt about that. But it pains me watch the harassment perpetuate – to use bell hooks’ phrase – an
imperialist
white-supremacist
capitalist
patriarchal ideology.

I haven’t experienced a lot of this bullying myself. But the thought of it happening scares me. It scares me to the point where I’m apprehensive of writing, or even just tweeting, about the many issues that bother me. It’s exhausting to simply exist as a woman of color in a society that suffocates me with sexism and racism every day. Right now my spirit can’t manage even more of it in comics culture.

At this moment, I feel the spirit to speak up. I just don’t I have the energy to fight back. But I’m glad others have that strength. I love them for it. So much. They’re a beacon of hope and an inspiration.

Maybe my energy will continue to come and go in batches, though I always fear that it will run out for good. Maybe one day I’ll find my own everlasting strength. For now, my silence is a form of self-care. And if I can’t fight back myself, I’ll continue to support those who can.

 

II. Celebrations

A dear friend of mine shared a poem with me. I shared it with another friend. I’ll now share it with you.

won’t you celebrate with me
By Lucille Clifton, 1936–2010
won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

To me, this poem reflects what marginalized people, specifically women of color, experience not only as members of society, but as fans within comics culture as well. What happens out there, happens in here, too. What I like most about this poem is that it doesn’t offer any false hope. It doesn’t make a promise that things will get better, but it doesn’t forebode that things will get worse either.

The poem, instead, gracefully welcomes us to celebrate in the now, that we had the incredible strength to merely survive. Reading a comic, critiquing a comic, creating a comic, all take strength in a world where you are constantly told your voice, your body
or your life
don’t matter.

So won’t you celebrate with me? Celebrate that you made it through another day. Celebrate that you’re still you despite everything and anyone trying to change that. Celebrate that you still managed to be passionate about comics when its culture makes you feel as if you don’t belong. Let’s celebrate with our middle fingers up in the air. Smiling, perhaps through tears. But smiling just the same.

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Self-Care Tips for fans of Geek Culture

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Art by Myles Rowser

I’ve come down with a case of being too woke and it’s starting to take a toll on both my mental and physical health. I’ve seen a lot of articles talk about self-care in relation to the #BlackLivesMatter movement and other oppressed communities and I think it’s important to take some of those self-care tips and apply it to the –isms and –phobias we also experience in geek culture.

Here are a few ways we can survive in a culture that’s sometimes hostile:

Find Your Community

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One of the most important things for you to do is find your community and safe spaces. This can be a group of IRL or Internet friends, troll-free online forums or meetup groups.

There are a lot community specific places online and in person that you can join. Geek Girl Brunch, Black Girl Nerds, Gaymers, Geeks Out and Geek Girl Pen Pals Club are just a few. Do some research and ask around about online and in-person communities that fit your needs.

Having a place where you can just be yourself and not worry about intolerance or hate is vital. Not just for the journey towards a more diverse geek culture, but for life. Finding a place where you feel comfortable may take some time, but never give up.

Do you know any other community specific groups or sites? Please comment and I’ll keep the list above updated!

You Don’t Have to Engage

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The second thing you should do is don’t feel the need to engage. If you’re like me, a lot of your feeds are filled with people sharing and talking about the latest injustice. I know sometimes social media can make you feel guilty if you don’t talk about the latest negative headline or don’t tweet out the newest hashtag. But remember, you don’t have to talk about it, and if you do talk about it you don’t have to reply to anyone.

It took me a while to really feel okay with just being silent on topics of injustice on social media. It’s only recently that I decided to speak up only when I really wanted to and not when I felt pressured to. It all comes down to awareness – make sure you’re fully aware of your actions and in control of them.

It’s also okay to not educate everyone, or anyone for that matter, about diversity, race, gender, religion or sexuality. It’s not your job. Explaining why representation matters and your own humanity is tiring and you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.

I’ve also come to realize the similarities between talking about social justice online and dealing with street harassers. Street harassers will cat call and try to make you feel guilty for ignoring them or shutting them down, but you have to remember, just like social media, you don’t owe them shit.

Tune Out

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The third thing you can do is to get off the internet. Now I’m not telling you to cancel your internet and phone service, but I am telling you to tune out when your social media feeds and the news become too much. Switch on airplane mode for a few hours, play a game offline, watch a movie, read a book, go to the park and try your very best to not use your social media apps.

If you can’t tune out all the way, that’s okay! This is a judgment free zone. Instead, try muting and unfollowing accounts that often post negative news. If you run across negative media, think like Dory and just keep scrolling.

Go to your Happy Place

kimi ni todoke friends

Last but not least, when things are overwhelming go to your happy place and do something that you truly enjoy. It’ll (hopefully) cheer you up and it’s also a great reminder as to why you fell in love with geek culture. Because I won’t lie, sometimes we need reminders.

My happy place is shoujo manga and anime. The storylines are so innocent and sweet. I know the most stressful thing the characters will experience is a love triangle or holding their boyfriend’s hand for the first time. Even that stresses me out! But in a good way.

Whether it’s society in general or the pockets of geek culture that you’re apart of, it’s important to be mindful of your mental and emotional bandwidth. If things are literally too much for you to handle, please please please seek professional help. You do not need to go through this alone. 

Do you have any other tips that work for you? Please share in the comments!