Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Neil Gaiman: Why I Won't Sign Dave Sim's Petition

Earlier today, Neil Gaiman announced that he was supporting Dave Sim's Patreon fundraiser, saying that "the world of comics is a big one", but "I won't sign his pledge", a reference to Dave Sim's online petition which asks people to confirm that they do not believe Dave Sim to be a misogynist. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to ask Neil (via Twitter) to make clear his reasons for not signing Dave's petition. Neil's response was as follows:
To give some context to Neil Gaiman's objections to Dave Sim's perceived misogyny, the following is an extract from a letter to Erik Larsen (then Image publisher) from Dave Sim posted on Al Nickerson's Creator's Bill Of Rights Website on 27 July 2005. The letter comments on the dispute between Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane over the ownership and royalties due from Medieval Spawn and Angela, characters created by Neil Gaiman in Spawn #9 in March 1993, written by Gaiman and illustrated by McFarlane. The dispute was finally settled in 2012 with Neil Gaiman being award the full ownership rights to Angela. The Hollywood Reporter has a handy summary of the case if you're interested.

...I conceded your point on Medieval Spawn. Even though a court of law said Neil had a case, I don't think it serves the comic-book field's best interests to see that as a precedent -- or, perhaps, more accurately -- that it proves that those things need to be established by the publishing creator. "I don't go in for that. If you want to take back Medieval Spawn, go ahead, but I don't see variations as innovations and I can't concede ownership of something that’s just a modification of my own intellectual property". I think it was a very badly-reasoned verdict in the Neil vs. Todd trial that would make very bad case law -- all you have to do is reverse it to see that: what if Neil had created Medieval Spawn and sold it to Vertigo? Would anyone in their right mind think he was entitled to do so? -- and just between you me and the lamppost I think it had more to do with the all-female jury at the trial. It wouldn't matter what Todd and Neil were disagreeing about, an all-female jury was going to find Todd in the wrong and Neil in the right just because Todd is Todd and Neil is Neil. Had the judge asked them, I'm sure the all-female jury would have been happy to give Neil the rights to Spawn, Todd's house and cars, Madonna's uniform from A League of Their Own and the Mark McGwire baseball and anything else Neil expressed an interest in.

Angela, I would maintain was a different matter entirely and I would think that all of these "well after the point of creation" items could be better handled on an issue-by-issue basis. It would seem to me that Neil was entitled to a royalty on each appearance of Angela and on the action figure and if that seemed unreasonable to Todd -- and, as I've said, I can certainly see Todd thinking that $100,000 should be you some consideration -- then the easy answer, it seems to me, is to write Angela out of the book and discontinue the action figure. And I quite agree with you on who was driving the Spawn bus. As far as I know the sales on Spawn 9 were probably higher than on Sandman to a factor of ten. Just as the sales of Spawn 10 were higher than on Cerebus to a factor of 100...


iestyn said...

"I don't force friends to sign ideological passes before they can talk to me. I'd rather they disagreed with me to my face."

That seems very reasonable as a response and gets to the heart of why I think the petition is wrongheaded - just agree to disagree don't expect everyone to toe your line.

I'm reminded of a conversation I once had. My girlfriend was complaining about the size of my comic collection and someone asked me what I would do if she told me it was her or the comics.

I replied 'the comics, because anyone who would couldn't accommodate someone else passion isn't someone who can love others'

Anonymous said...

Seems to me Gaiman is being more than fair. I think it's unreasonable to make outrageous comments about women (likening them to leeches, saying they can't reason, shouldn't be allowed to vote) and then insist that people pledge that you are not a misogynist. It seems like Dave has simply tried to shut down conversation on the subject through what you might call a loyalty pledge, which doesn't make sense when you air provocative views in public. Neil seems to be supporting Dave as much as he can in the circumstances. I find it quite respectable myself.

- Reginald P.

Sandeep Atwal said...

Very interesting! Good on you for asking. I don't think Dave was saying women can't/don't understand the law, but rather their infatuation with Neil was a factor. I mean, that doesn't seem that outrageous. The petition, once again, is not about agreeing/disagreeing with an ideological position but rather, as Neil doesn't note, Dave DID argue with people face to face for a good ten years. After his reputation was ruined, he decided he didn't want to spend any more time with people who thought he was scum. I don't have a problem with that. By supporting the Patreon page, I think Neil has demonstrated the ability to support Dave while disagreeing with him and I respect that.

Bill Ritter said...

I'm thinking the same thing, Sandeep...Neil appears to ascribe something in Dave's letter to Larsen that isn't supported. Having read the Nickerson posts of Dave's letter and Bissette's response, it's clear Dave was referencing charm (Todd is Todd, Neil is Neil...I take that as Todd can be abrasive and putoffing, while Neil has that smooth accent and wonderful way with charming (and he is...having "met" Neil at a few conventions and midnight readings, he is quite a charmer)). So unless Neil has other letters, I rather call his interpretation not quite accurate.

Barry Deutsch said...

I'm also supporting Sim's patreon, but will not sign his petition.

"I don't think Dave was saying women can't/don't understand the law, but rather their infatuation with Neil was a factor. I mean, that doesn't seem that outrageous."

"Women on a jury will vote for absolutely anything if the more charming man asks for it," which is a fair summary of what Dave wrote, is sexist, and misogynistic. And it's far from the most misogynistic thing Dave has ever written, although I can see why it would be the foremost thing that comes to Gaiman's mind.

After his reputation was ruined, he decided he didn't want to spend any more time with people who thought he was scum.

I don't think Sim is scum. I do think he's a misogynist. This erasure of nuance, and the way Sim's explanation of the letter conflates "misogynist" and "the lowest, subhuman form of life," makes this issue impossible to discuss reasonably.

If Sim were to put out a petition saying "I do not believe that Dave Sim is a low or subhuman form of life. On the contrary, I think that Sim has many admirable traits, and has been kind to many people, me included, in ways that matter. I like Sim, would like for him to be included in society, and would take great pleasure in having dinner with him if the opportunity ever came up. In addition to all that, I think Dave Sim is one of the greatest cartoonists in history. I wish Dave nothing but good things."

...If THAT petition were available, I'd sign it in an instant.

But "misogynist" has a meaning. That meaning is not "scum," and it is not "the lowest, subhuman form of life." Misogyny means "hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women, or prejudice against women." (Note that it says "or," not "and.") Dave has said a lot over the years which meets the definition of "misogyny," and it would be dishonest for me to claim otherwise by signing the petition.

Barry Deutsch said...

I wonder how many of the people who are supporting either Dave's Patreon or Kickstarters (I've supported both) have chosen not to sign the petition?

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

Neil Gaiman has responded to these comments on Twitter:

"The jury made up their mind on evidence and points of law presented to them. They were women... To say I put magic sexy fluence on them because they are women says they are not actual jurors."

And thank you to Neil Gaiman for engaging on this topic on Twitter, which is not an ideal forum for such things.

I would also echo Sandeep's other point that by supporting the Patreon page, Neil has demonstrated the ability to support Dave while disagreeing with him. I respect that too.

Sandeep Atwal said...

Barry, you believe Dave has a "hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women, or prejudice against women." I believe this is completely and totally wrong. Hatred, dislike, mistrust: these are all emotions and whether it's Tangent or the 15 Impossible Things to Believe or the responses to letters in Aardvark Comment, I think Dave has clearly drawn a line regarding the influence of feminism in our society when it comes to (for example) divorce laws, alimony, child support, publicly-funded daycare, the allocation of seats in legislatures, physical standards required for positions such as firefighters and policemen, the legal reality of prenuptial agreements, abortion decisions, etc.

You cannot, seriously, be suggesting that this is all simply based on "hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women." That's not just simplistic, it's ignoring the content of his writing. What about alimony payments? What about child support? What about publicly-funded daycare? Are we to simply accept the status quo and never question it lest we be labeled misogynist? These are real, concrete issues in our society that affect millions of people and are, obviously, clearly, statistically skewed in favor of women. Why has the marriage rate plummeted over the last several decades? The patriarchy? Or maybe it's insanely draconian alimony and child support laws?

When feminism can destroy the career of a man like Tim Hunt:

or Matt Taylor

then WE HAVE A PROBLEM, HOUSTON. (Actually, the correct quote is "Houston, we've had a problem here.", but I think the point stands.) If you want to shoot the messenger, that's your choice, but calling Sim a misogynist isn't going to make divorce laws or hiring procedures any more fair.

On the other hand, it is an absolutely undeniable fact that many influential (and in fact, celebrated) feminists have expressed a clear "hatred, dislike or mistrust" of men:

"I feel that 'man-hating' is an honorable and viable political act, that the oppressed have a right to class-hatred against the class that is oppressing them." - Robin Morgan, Ms. Magazine Editor.

This isn't the author of a self-published comic book, this was the Editor of a magazine with a current circulation of 110,000. (Not sure what the circulation was at the time she said that.)

"I want to see a man beaten to a bloody pulp with a high-heel shoved in his mouth, like an apple in the mouth of a pig." - Andrea Dworkin

Yes, this was from a work of fiction, but isn't Cerebus a work of fiction? Where's the outrage? Where's the condemnation? Where has Dave said anything even remotely this offensive? Yet he's a misogynist and they're the lauded leaders of a large and powerful social movement.

Catherine Comins, College Administrator at Vassar charged with investigating rape claims, on men being falsely accused of rape: 'They have a lot of pain, but it is not a pain that I would necessarily have spared them. I think it ideally initiates a process of self-exploration. 'How do I see women?' 'If I didn't violate her, could I have?' 'Do I have the potential to do to her what they say I did?' Those are good questions.'"

You can find more quotes like this just as easily as I can (and of course you know you have to triple-check the source because not everything on the internet is true) and yet, again, I see no societal condemnation of these types of positions, yet nothing but hate for Sim for questioning them.

I say and I say again, to simply call Sim a misogynist is easy and lazy. Addressing the social issues Sim addresses that I've noted above is much harder. Unfortunately, it's so much easier to portray Sim as a NAZI IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP, i.e. scum, the lowest form of life.

Tony Dunlop said...

Sandeep steps up to the plate…he swings and OH MY, there it goes! No doubt about that one, it's into the third row of the upper deck in deep right field!

Thanks for that, Sandeep. As someone else (well, maybe Sandeep himself, I'm too lazy to go check) pointed out in the last few days, Dave had been having these conversations for many years, which always seemed to end in his being called names without ever being seriously rebutted, before he said "Screw this" and set up the petition.

I do deeply respect Mr. Gaiman for supporting Dave's art financially - and saying so in public - while disagreeing with him personally. Classy.

Jeff Seiler said...

I would like to know where you found that...inflated...definition of the word "misogyny", Barry. My American Heritage dictionary defines it only as "hatred of women".

Furthermore, the same dictionary defines the prefix "miso" as meaning "hatred", from the Greek word "misos". I think we all understand the meaning of "gyny".

If we were all to go by your (uncited) definition of the word, Barry, then I think nearly all of us men, and probably some women amongst us, could be labeled misogynist.

After all, can very many of us honestly say that we have never met at least one person, male or female, whom we didn't end up disliking and/or mistrusting? I know I have.

But, crazy Canadian lady notwithstanding, I don't HATE women.

CerebusTV said...

"I would like to know where you found that...inflated...definition of the word 'misogyny', Barry. My American Heritage dictionary defines it only as 'hatred of women'."

Hmmm. You could believe an identifiable cohort of humans are inferior in a number of ways to others, without hating them at all. No doubt, the world has its shares of Great Lovers, Don Juans who absolutely love women, particularly those possessed of extraordinary physical beauty. But they are definitely viewed by them in a reductionist, objectified way, without the status they claim for themselves.

Depending on the scope of the definition (it depends what "is," is) at the extremes either everyone or no one might be a misogynist.

In the different matter of Dave Sim, the term really is irrelevant. Personally, I've been called worse, if not that. Why grant others the power to label you, by internalizing that it matters whether they do so? Shake the dust from your sandals, then move on.

Sandeep Atwal said...

Tony...LOL...too funny...

Barry Deutsch said...

Hi, Sandeep. Thanks for your response, and thanks for all the work you've done to help Cerebus and Dave's other works.

Regarding our disagreement, I'm going to keep to the subject of Dave Sim and misogyny, to prevent this reply from ballooning to novel length. If there's any item I skipped you'd particularly like me to address, let me know; however, with apologies, I can't spend the time to address everything.

Regarding Dave Sim, I think a lot of your response to me shows that you've misunderstood my argument. For instance, you write:

"You cannot, seriously, be suggesting that this is all simply based on "hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women.""

You're correct: That's not what I'm suggesting.

I think that some of the things Dave has written are misogynistic; I didn't say, or suggest, that everything he's written is misogyny, or that a particular policy position on (say) publicly-funded daycare is inherently misogynistic.

I think you're giving a very selective account of Dave's views. It's true, opposing daycare funding is not inherently misogynistic. But as you must know, Dave has written things like:

"There is little in the way of intellectual value to be derived from revisiting—either mentally or ‘in person’—the simply fact (once discovered) that women are emotion based beings and that (consequently) any female-center or female-originated political movement—more precisely ‘political’ movement—will lack sound intellectual footing.""

This isn't merely a slam on feminism; it's a slam on the intellectual capacities of women in general. That's misogynistic.

"All I got out of that research, I already knew: a) women want to be raped by rich, muscular, handsome doctors b) women are completely self-absorbed and, thus, see themselves in everything around them and c) feminism is no different from communism in that all of its literature is founded upon convoluted syntax, bafflegab and academic jargon..."

Points A) and B) in this passage are talking about women, not feminism. And they are deeply misogynistic.

"As an example, I firmly believe that feminism is a misguided attempt to raise women above their place, which I firmly believe is secondary to that of men."

Prejudice against women, a form of misogyny.

"To me, taking it as a given that reason cannot prevail in any argument with emotion, there must come a point – with women and children – where verbal discipline has to be asserted, and if verbal discipline proves insufficient, that physical discipline be introduced. "

Here, Sim says that he thinks men should physically beat women (but "leave no mark which endures longer than, say, an hour or two") if they can't "prevail" in an argument. He also conflates women with children. Both these views are misogynistic.

"...All women have a greater attraction to themselves and their stories than they have to any mate."

Taken as a whole, with these and many, many other statements, I think it's fair to say that Dave words exhibit "hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women, or prejudice against women." (I'll point out again that the definition I'm using says "or," not "and.")

Finally, I'm not saying that Sim is "a Nazi in a concentration camp," or is "scum."

I realize that you were making a reference to a caricature of Sim published by the Comics Journal years ago. However, I didn't draw that cover; I am not on the staff of TCJ; in short, I am not answerable for what TCJ says, any more than Dave is answerable for what other anti-feminists have said or done.

Barry Deutsch said...

Hi, Jeff. Thanks for your reply.

The American Heritage dictionary actually defines misogyny as "Hatred or mistrust of women."

The definition of "misogyny" I used comes from the Random House dictionary, via

Similarly, Oxford Dictionaries, a website run by the Oxford English Dictionary people, defines misogyny as "Dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women."

The word “misogyny” was first used in English in the play “Swetnam the Woman-Hater,” published in 1820 but performed as early as 1818. (They spelled it “misogynos.”) Later uses of the word derived from this play. The play, a satirical farce, was written as a response to Joseph Swetnam’s hugely popular 1815 pamphlet The arraignment of lewd, idle, froward, and unconstant women. At the play’s climax, a women’s court finds him guilty of “Woman-slander, and defamation.”

So according to the word's creators, it refers to slander and defamation (and I'd say, sexism against women in general), not just “hatred.”

"After all, can very many of us honestly say that we have never met at least one person, male or female, whom we didn't end up disliking and/or mistrusting?"

The definition says "hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women, or prejudice against women." That seems to me to refer to dislike, etc, of women as a class, not just dislike of "one person" who happens to be female, as in your example.

Jack said...

You're all a bunch of obviously inferior beings who have no morals and shouldn't be allowed to vote. And unless you sign a petition saying that you don't believe I hate you, you're also conformist cowards.

Sandeep, Dave has described feminists as Nazis.

Jeff Seiler said...

Barry, thank you for your well-worded reply and the history lesson.

My dictionary, which has served me well for many years and which I utilize in my proofreading duties regularly, is the 2002 American Heritage College Dictionary, which the indicia notes is "Based on the fourth ed. of the American Heritage dictionary."

My 2002 AH dictionary has the following entry, only, after the word "misogyny":

"(pronunciation symbols) n. Hatred of women. [Gk. miso-gunia: miso + gune, woman; see -GYNY] --misogynic (pronunciation symbols) adj."

I clicked on the American Heritage dictionary link you provided and found that it took me to their website, which noted that it is based on the fifth edition of the American Heritage dictionary, copyright 2015.

While it is a truism that words evolve, not only in spelling and meaning, but also in usage, I would argue that the evolution (devolution?) in meaning AND usage of the word "misogyny" between the 2002 and 2015 editions of the American Heritage dictionary is a direct result of the feminist influence on the North American culture.

After all, it seems to be much easier to accuse someone (and make it stick) of being a misogynist if you force the dictionary powers that be to expand the definition to include "dislike and mistrust of" women, rather than just "hatred of". Much more inclusive, hmmm?

Finally, I would note that all three of the dictionary citations you provided were of online dictionaries, which I trust solely for correct spelling. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer thumbing through a print version.

Jim Sheridan said...

Barry, thanks for citing Dave's words directly. They are what needs to be addressed. Sandeep mentioned examples of feminist extremism that should indeed be questioned and challenged. However, extremists don't represent an entire group.

Furthermore, and as you clearly point out, Dave went far beyond criticizing feminism. His statements about women are sophomoric, intellectually lazy. Don't even get me started on his "men are logical, women are emotional" vision. Dave ain't exactly Mr. Spock.

He's the greatest cartoonist of my lifetime, but imagine what he could have done with his time instead of all the pouting in print over the past two decades.

Barry Deutsch said...

Jeff, you're transparently making up excuses - and even making up conspiracy theories - so you can ignore evidence that doesn't favor your argument.

The Oxford English Dictionary, published since 1884, is widely acknowledged as the most authoritative English dictionary in the world. The paper edition is 21,728 pages long and is published in 20 volumes, and few copies exist outside of research libraries. It can also be accessed online for a very reasonable $300 annual subscription.

In the full OED, which I've just checked, the definition given for "misogyny" is "Hatred or dislike of, or prejudice against women."

That OED definition is from June 2002 - the same year as your dictionary. Which disproves your ridiculous conspiracy theory about feminists forcing dictionaries to change their definitions sometime between 2002 and 2015.

Also, as I pointed out, the original meaning of misogyny was also much broader than you're falsely claiming. It's possible that the word changed its meaning over time and then changed back; but the most likely possibility is that the word, as actually used, has never excluded dislike or prejudice.

Barry Deutsch said...

Jim, thanks. It's a relief to me that there are Cerebus fans who recognize Dave's genius but don't make excuses for the misogyny. (Which is a pretty common attitude among comics pros, I've found.)

That said, I don't think I'd criticize Dave for not getting more work done. He's actually been quite active in recent years, up until the wrist injury. (Which is a tragedy for comics, imo.)

And yes, he took slowed down after finishing the 300 issue "Cerebus" series, but c'mon - who can blame him for that? I mean, 300 issues!

Jeff Seiler said...

Barry, thank you for your response.

Despite what the OED defines "misogyny" as, the fact remains that my argument is valid, not specious. The mere fact that somebody/ies expands a definition of a term which previously had a fixed meaning, in itself, has to generate mistrust, because it (such expansion) is intellectually dishonest. You're moving the goalposts, stacking the deck in your own favor, in a way that is dishonestly prejudicial to the viewpoint opposing yours.

And, don't forget that the root prefix "miso" is from the Greek word "misos", meaning "hatred".

Not dislike or mistrust or prejudice.

Hatred. Conflation of the above three words with the word "hatred" is, as I say, the feminist equivalent of moving the goalposts.


Jim Sheridan said...

Jeff, your response doesn't show that you read or understood Barry's information that even in the 1800s, pre-feminism, "misogyny" meant more than hatred.

To bring in the word's Greek origin is a good idea, but you know that many words that have roots do NOT have the identical meaning of the root word. That's true with MANY words.

Your final point that the change of word's meaning is somehow dishonest, always, ignores how words work. Get a copy of the OED. You will see that most words change in meaning. Look up the word "Marshall," for example.

All of this still ignores Dave's words, conveniently moving the goalposts.

CerebusTV said...

What we really want to know, is Cerebus a 'misogynist'? :-)

What's remarkable is that Dave Sim in person, can be very different from the assumed various literary identities, alter egos and proxies.

It's hard to pin down what's not a constant. The Charlie Hebdo of the comic book anglosphere?

gsquared said...

Completely with Barry on this (see my long recent comment on the petition page itself).
I also believe Dave to be the greatest cartoonist of my generation, and will continue to fanatically support his work in whatever form it takes (as well as Patreon).
I see the petition is an absurd McCarthyesque loyalty pledge for all but a very few people who (apparently) know Dave well enough to make such an assertion, in spite of the voluminous print record of Dave's thoughts on women (as opposed to feminism).
I do not doubt the signatories sincere belief that what they claim to be true, is really true from their POV. I wish I could share it; I don't know Dave outside of what I read.
It's a shame that print record wasn't more purely focused on a critique of feminism, as Sandeep argues above; or that the petition (silly as it is) wasn't worded differently, to put the focus on the incredible work Dave has done instead of who he is personally.
It is what it is.

Sandeep Atwal said...

Hey Barry, sorry for the delay in my reply. It's too long for a blogger comment, so I used an old blog:

Thanks for your message.

Slumbering Agartha said...

Oh for the love of God. Dave was just saying that a lot of women find Neil to be really attractive. It's called having a sense of humor. I could literally throw a rock and hit a woman with a Neil-obsession. I don't know any women who have even heard of Todd McFarlane.

Neil is projecting his own baggage regarding Dave's 'views' onto an otherwise totally innocuous/benign statement. Just another example of someone who is otherwise totally brilliant just totally dropping the ball when it comes to Dave Sim.

Orson Zedd said...

Well you're absolutely in the wrong Davey. For all the good things you've done for comics and art, you can't get a free pass on the things you say. You're a misogynist, and you've gotta deal with it. It's not the end of the world, you can still change, but that's gotta come from the inside.

Suditeh said...

OMG, the contraty petition exists: