You should probably read what the always wise Andrew Weiss has to say first.
Chris Sims is a friend. I think you guys realize that. We’ve palled around online for years, shot at each other over Xbox live, even wrote a book together. I’ve supported his many projects, and always looked forward to whatever he’s got coming. He was even going to get me to read an X-Men comic again for the first time in forever.
And yes, he screwed up. In a time, as Andrew said in his post, when a whole lot of us were out there being aggressive about our comics blogging (of all things), and when some of us were letting surliness overtake reason (thank goodness Haloscan’s demise swept away some of my own excesses), and some of us were more than happy to watch drama unfold from the comfort of our computer desks in those pre-iPad days, there was still such a thing as going too far. Particularly for Ms. D’Orazio, who by that point had already had more than her fair share of personal and professional struggles, and the last thing she needed was someone pushing a one-sided feud against her that went beyond the bounds of “Internet shenanigans” into trolling and harassment.
Now for me, personal time on the Internet is escapism and entertainment. I go online to read about comics, keep up with pals on Twitter, promote Frank Miller’s The Spirit, all the usual things that I’m sure you folks do as well. I’m too old and weary to want to fire up the ol’ Atari 800 and discover an email box full of notifications from people telling me that I suck and my work is worthless and that I should go throw myself into an acid bath. And I’m a guy, and a reasonably innocuous, noncontroversial one at that. The number of seriously troublesome emails received over the 11+ years of blogging at this site can be counted on one hand. And, well, maybe a spare finger or two.
I don’t think I need to tell you how women are generally received online. Particularly strong, opinionated, professional women. I’m sure some are receiving the equivalent number of negative online messages I’ve received every second. And our awareness of this awful situation has come into much sharper focus with recent pervasive harassment campaigns. What we once saw as games of “hey, let’s be a jerk to someone we don’t like online!” we now know can be just straight-up bullying, harassment and abuse. And that’s no damned good. Not against women, not against anyone.
Now, I wasn’t a big fan of Ms. D’Orazio. I had certain issues with her work, and that’s fine. Not everybody has to get along. “Someone doing something you don’t like” is not a crime, unless whatever they’re doing actually is a crime, but I digress. But I didn’t care for her work, and other people I knew didn’t care for her work, just as I know some people out there don’t care for what I do, and that’s okay. That’s an opening for criticism. That’s even an opening for a little mockery. That’s fine. But it’s not an opening for abuse, even if you think that’s not what you’re doing.
For April Fool’s Day, back when I had a lot more time on my hands, I would radically change the appearance of my site to mimic other people’s websites. Once, I changed it to “postmodernruin” to parody pal Dorian’s site, and one year I did a parody of Fanboy Rampage (“Progressive Rampage,” or something like that). One year the idea occurred to me to do a parody of Ms. D’Orazio’s site, Occasional Superheroine, mostly because the name “Progressional Superruin” came to mind. “Hot damn, that’s a name!” I thought, but never got around to it. Now, had I actually done it at the time, which was probably around the time Chris was in the midst of his situation with her, I probably would have thought nothing of it. “Ah, I’m just having fun, who’s it hurting?”
Now I realize, it could have hurt Ms. D’Orazio. Even if I meant it simply as innocent parody for an April Fool’s joke, I would still have been a friend of Chris Sims, and I still would have been making fun of her website, and there still would have been worry about my ultimate motives. Basically, it would have just been one more log on the fire, in context of what she was already going through. I’m very glad I didn’t do it now.
In short, Ms. D’Orazio did not deserve harassment, for any reason. Nobody does. Ever.
Criticism, sure. Debate, of course. Abuse, never.
Chris crossed a line, and has apologized for it. I promise you, his regret for his behavior is genuine, and is working to better himself and the industry he’s in. This doesn’t wipe away past harm…there’s no way it could. He knows his apology may never be accepted by the one person it’s specifically for, and she has every right not to.
Chris is still my friend. I still look forward to his work, and to maybe doing more projects with him in the future. I’m not bailing on someone for fucking up, especially if he’s trying to improve himself and the world around him so that said fuck-ups don’t recur. I wish him, as always, the best.
I wish Ms. D’Orazio the best as well. This industry has not been easy on her at times, and she certainly didn’t need anyone piling on.
I wish all of us the best, that we learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others, and thus move ever upward.