DC Comics and Institutionalized Sexism – Purchasing Power is Not Power

For those of you unaware of what’s going on with DC Comics, please visit the most excellent: Has DC Comics Done Something Stupid Today website.  There are the links to information on the Eisner award winning creative team behind Batwoman for the past two years WALKING OFF the project, and links to information on the horribly offensive Harley Quinn contest going on right now.

This blog is not about DC Comics.  It is a reaction to the SAME bullshit argument I hear, almost always from men, that if I have a problem with a company’s practices, the answer is to simply not buy their product and tell them why.

Telling people not to buy DC Comics as a way to change things at DC Comics is short sighted and dismissive.  Not buying those comics means readers have to, not only give up on beloved characters, but pull their support of talented and dedicated writers, artists, and others.

The problem is with the LEADERSHIP.  Why would we take an action that would punish the people responsible for creating the entertainment we love?

Not only that, when we get upset by institutional racism and/or sexism and your knee jerk reaction is to tell us to stop buying their products, you are immediately taking the responsibility for those actions and placing it on us.

It is a handy way for people to disregard our complaints by treating us as though our dedication to our beliefs is not equal to our outrage.  AKA; stop making such a fuss if you’re still going to buy their stuff.  AKA; if you really cared about sexism you wouldn’t support these companies at all.

I like reading comics.  I love Gail Simone’s work.  I love Greg Rucka’s work.  I’m not going to stop supporting THEM because the DC leadership refuses to acknowledge the terrible decision-making that continually alienates a large portion of their client-base.

I don’t know what the solution is.  I don’t know HOW we can make a change, there.  It is an institutional issue that goes way beyond DC Comics.

Purchasing power is not power.  It doesn’t make any difference to refuse to buy products that are created and distributed by companies whose beliefs we disagree with.  It just doesn’t work.

I don’t know, yet, what will work.  But I’m willing to try and figure it out.

Are you?


Read more about DC’s PR goofs at The Outhouse.


2 Responses to “DC Comics and Institutionalized Sexism – Purchasing Power is Not Power”

  1. cfc says:

    Businesses are out to make money. For many of them, especially the larger ones, maximizing profit is the only consideration that really factors into their decisions. It doesn’t matter if they’re receiving thousands of angry letters, or even if they’ve been vilified by society at large. If something they’re doing makes them money, they will keep doing it. (Tobacco companies are the perfect example of this.)

    The only thing you CAN do to influence their decisions is to affect their revenue stream. So yes, purchasing power is power — and, like it or not, it’s just about the only power you have when it comes to large companies. You can choose to support what they do by giving them your money, or you can refuse to give them your money and sleep a little better at night knowing you’re not supporting a company that does things you disagree with. If enough people out there feel the same way you do, and feel that way strongly enough to stop making purchases from that company, it WILL make a difference.

    However, you have to remember that the purchasing decisions of one individual — even thousands of individuals — are a drop in the bucket to megacorporations like DC. As long as the majority of their hundreds of millions of readers keep buying their comics, they WILL keep doing what they’re doing.

    It’s basically the same as voting. The aggregate votes (or purchases) of an entire society add up to shape the direction of a nation (or business), but that leaves individuals who are part of the dissenting minority feeling like their vote (or purchase, or lack thereof) doesn’t count. It does count — but the majority always wins.

    When you’re not part of the majority, that sucks. But if you decide to stop voting altogether and start convincing your friends and blog readers that they shouldn’t bother voting either because you believe their votes don’t matter, you’re actually helping your opposition.

    All you can do to change things is to keep voting, get others who are like-minded to vote, and work on convincing others of your position so that they’ll vote your way too. Someday, if you manage to turn your dissenting minority position into the one held by the majority, you’ll get to change things. That’s how democracy works.

    Until then, voting for (or purchasing from) the opposing side can only hurt your cause.

  2. You’ve hit upon the problem I’ve been considering for the last day. I tried boycotting Marvel for a time over the One More Day fiasco. A lot of people did. It didn’t change a damn thing. All it did was cause me to miss out on some good work by writers and artists I did enjoy, who were working independent of the work I was trying to protest.

    A similar issue arose recently with the efforts to boycott the sponsors of Rush Limbaugh. Rather than causing the sponsors to put their support towards more neutral or progressive programming, they’re just pulling out of radio advertising altogether. Because it turns out they were more interested in reaching a big audience than a particular type of audience. And since most of those sponsors also supported liberal talk radio shows, the likes of Stephanie Miller and Thom Hartman are now losing advertising revenue too.

    I want to do something but I know pulling out of buying anything DC Comics does is impractical. Because then they can say “Oh well… I guess people don’t want lesbian heroines after all. Stick her in limbo and let’s put out another Batman title!” I don’t want to miss out on Batgirl, Green Lantern Corps, Earth 2, World’s Finest and all of the books that ARE doing it right. I don’t want to stop watching Arrow, which is far more engaging than the Green Arrow book right now and a lot truer to what I think the GA character should be.

    I’m at a loss for answers, too. But I’ve got an idea…and I think I’ll be writing about it later.

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