Saturday, 22 August 2015

Why I Haven't Signed Dave Sim's Petition

(originally posted on AMOC: Please Consider Signing The Petition, 19 August 2015)
I haven't signed the ["I don't believe Dave Sim is a misogynist"] petition (and don't plan to) despite being a huge fan and longtime supporter of Dave and Cerebus. That longtime and passionate support has at times taken the form of a public defense of the work, nowhere more often than on the late, lamented Comics Journal message boards. It's puzzling to me why Dave is determined to remain disconnected from the internet, yet insistent (for over a decade) that he has no supporters in public opinion. The conversations are still out there in the Wayback Machine for anyone to see, and I didn't defend Dave and Cerebus as often as some, but I did my fair share.

I'm not easily offended, but it's hard not to take umbrage at Dave's seemingly perpetual moan of Poor Me, No One Will Stand Up for Cerebus. Excuse me? I've been with you since 1984, not only buying nearly anything you commit to paper, hanging original art in the walls of my home for friends and family to see, and wading into public debate - using my real name and location - as opportunity allows. Does that not count?

If his petition had read: "I defend Dave Sim's (or anyone's) right to critique feminism as a political / social / economic philosophy", I would have signed it years ago, as soon as it was put up! I'll say it right now for posterity, in all caps, on the public internet for all the world to see:

 - signed, Greg Griffin, Los Angeles, California, August 2015.

Maybe some of the signers above have the benefit of spending enough time with Dave in person such that they can say they KNOW FOR A FACT he's not a misogynist. If you have, that's great (and I envy you). But I've only met him in person twice, way back when he used to do tours and signings, way before his views on feminism and religion were part of the story, and our interaction was entirely cursory. All I have to go on is his published work, which strays outside of a purely intellectual inquiry into feminism far enough, and often enough, to make the misogyny question stick to the wall.

I'm DEFINITELY NOT saying I think that Dave IS a misogynist, and I accept him at his word that his sole interest is in questioning the societal changes wrought by feminism. But I don't KNOW that he isn't. I'm missing two pieces of data: what is a misogynist (what constitutes a negative, discriminatory or objectifying view of women in general, and to what degree does one need to consistently hold it in order for the label to stick)? and how does Dave fit that definition in both his public and private, interior and exterior life? If anything, I'm impressed that he convinced the 670-odd fans to sign.

Most of the messages above are messages of support and love for Dave and Cerebus, and to that let me unreservedly add my name. But to publicly avow that someone you don't know and maybe have never even met does / does not hold a particular thinking pattern - bit silly, isn't it?

And who cares anyway? Is Dave the first author of some renown to face public criticism and censure? Have people stopped talking about or reading Celine, or Salman Rushdie, or Samuel Clemens?

By way of aside - my interest in Cerebus really picked up during "Church and State" and soared with the entire second half - well, up until "Chasing YHWH" anyway. I am not your typical "oh please, give us more Roach and Elrod" fan - the best stuff (IMO) was the material that cut against the grain.

I find the entire concept of a Public Loyalty Oath absurd and beneath Dave's stature as the pre-eminient cartoonist of his generation. Second to none. Cerebus will survive as literature based on its merit - same as every other book that's ever been written. Not because 670-odd people put their name on a petition to help make Dave, our beloved paragon of rational Male thought, "feel better".


A Moment Of Cerebus said...

It seems to me that Dave Sim's petition serves two purposes with varying degrees of success:
1. Dave has always been very generous with his time in supporting other creative types with their projects (just look at all those previews he ran of other comics in the pages of Cerebus) only to find certain individuals were talking him down behind his back. The petition is a very good way for Dave to flush out those people upfront and save himself a lot of time.
2. At some point the petition morphed in to some kind of popularity contest where the objective is to gain as many signatures as possible, even from people who have no reason to have any direct dealings with him. The petition is less successful on this and assumes that the wider population has even heard of the petition. I would love to know if Alan Moore is sitting in Northampton a) blissfully unaware of Dave Sim's petition; or b) has taken a positive decision not to sign it as he thinks Dave Sim is a misogynist. The problem is, there is no way of knowing, and in this respect the idea behind the petition (and the conclusions Dave derives from the lack of signatures) is flawed... IMHO.

CerebusTV said...

Speaking as a person who considers friendship to include loyalty, it didn't cost anything other than time to sign the petition since it mattered to my friend, who I shared solidarity with since our childhood in the sixties, and for whom I never wished anything but success.

Anthony Kuchar said...

I think the petition scares a lot of people. I know it scared me for a long time. I used to think would someone who looks me up on Google find this and judge me? Could I be passed up for a job? That fear began to subside and dissipate over the years after I’ve seen what people post on Facebook. If the worst thing for my professional life I have on the internet is that I signed the petition of someone with an unpopular opinion on feminist theory than that’s the leas of my worries.

Anthony Kuchar said...

In my mind I see there are
1. Pop-culture fans (The Big-Bang Theory crowd, nerdy trendy people)
2. Comic book fans(and a whole Generation don't know Dave as a current creator)
3. Indi-Comic Fans (same as above)
4. People who have read some Cerebus (lets say they have the first four phonebooks)
5. Cerebus Fans (have all the books)
6. Active/Engaged-Cerebus Fans (Patrons, AMOC readers)
7. Hardcore Cerebus Fans (Personal friends of Dave, People who buy artwork)

Nobody in category 1 through 4 would likely sign the petition or would even know who Dave is, and this is in the millions. He has no Pop-Culture presence and there’s no Cerebus toys, TV Show, Film or Video Games.

English language comic readers are the only in between several hundred thousand and a million people. Indi-comic fans may know him but it could be the same as mainstream comic fans but probably less. Keep in mind, for better or worse a lot of people read graphic novels from bookstores and on Comixology. They may never even walk into a comic shop and thus never even have a chance of finding out about Cerebus.

From there you jump into the “Cerebus Readership”. I don’t know the numbers of Cerebus books sold in total but I’m assuming it may be 37, 000 people tops (for all time). I don’t know the total numbers but I would imagine that the first few books (from Cerebus to C&S II) have sold more copies than say Latter Days and The Last Day Which makes sense in every long running series.
Of those people there probably a lot who like Cerebus, HS and Church and State but flipped through Jaka’s story and gave up. Then you have people who stuck around and made it to the end, but that’s it. That comes in at around 16,000 people who are active, engaged and likely sympathetic.
They like the story and it sits on their shelf but they have no more interest in the personal opinions and lives of Dave than they have of the guys on the credits role of the TV show they own all the season of.

There might very well be only 600 to 700 people in 6 and 7. And that’s not a bad thing in and of itself. But it is the reality of the situation.

Unknown said...

Greg might well have been reading my mind in his very well explained post.

I'm no johnny-come-lately to Dave or Cerebus. I remember well walking into the local comic store in Pittsburgh and seeing CEREBUS #1 in the rack. They only had one copy left, and a buddy had driven me there, so unfortunately he had dibs. Thus I only started buying with issue #2.

There are people I know a lot better than I know Dave (whom I've never met) for whom I would hesitate to sign a petition stating that they do or don't hold some personal belief or attitude. So to do so for someone who is personally a stranger to me, despite how well I may "know" him through his work, is really a non-starter for me.

I don't believe Dave is a misogynist, but neither do I believe he is not. It's simply something that I have no way of judging from my perspective. To sign a petition one way or the other as a show of "support" would be dishonest.

Bill Ritter said...

I agree with Greg's points. I admit this as being one whom signed the petition (golly, so many years ago). As time has gone by I ponder Dave's, might I call it indignation?, with the low support and signing. I consider the situation as: here's a creator who does not have a regular output or market presence, has really limited ways (well, until recently) to engage readers and to cultivate new ones. If one is not going to promote a position (and I do not mean defend one's reputation, but to simply engage people with the issue and let them decide) I don't think it's a but disingenuous to suggest the public at large is as indifferent as Dave is attributing. Do I think Dave is a misogynist? No, I do not (even my having only a few meet ups and letters to base my belief). I also do not think Dave's campaigned sufficiently to compel the market at-large to truly care one way or another...Maybe put together a "Not Your Daddy's Misogyny Tour" and hit the convention circuit...?

Bill Ritter said...

And by "I don't think it's a but disingenuous" I actually meant "I do think it's a bit disingenuous..."

There goes an chance of being an editor. Sigh.

Jack said...

I signed it but changed my mind a few years later and asked to have my name removed. One day, it just hit me--"What was I thinking? The guy says that women are obviously inferior beings who have no ethics, morals, or scruples and shouldn't be allowed to vote. If I say that about Jews, is Dave going to sign a petition saying that I don't hate them?"

By the way, Greg Griffin didn't have to stray from comics or misogyny by bringing in Celine et al; I remember Gary Groth asking Robert Crumb about being called a misogynist and Crumb exclaiming, "I am a misogynist!" I don't think our evil Marxist-feminist society has cruelly shunned poor Bob, however.

Whatever; I love a lot of Dave's work and find the profound strangeness of his thinking to be endlessly fascinating (his notes to The Last Day might be my favorite Sim material). I hope his wrist gets better soon.

Tony Dunlop said...

I think some comments are showing a less-than-careful reading of the statement in the iPetition:

"By "signing" below I confirm that I don't believe that Dave Sim is a misogynist."

Not, "I know Dave Sim isn't a misogynist." Not, "I think Dave Sim isn't a misogynist."
Just that I have no good reason to believe, based on what I've read and heard, that he is. Of course each person must decide for himself (or herself - Loretta chimes in there) what he means by "misogynist." Simply holding certain views about the essential nature of male and female doesn't do that, in my view. I think to earn the name "misogynist" requires deliberately treating women badly, simply because they are women. I've never, ever heard of Dave Sim doing that.

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