Recently news broke of Chris Hardwick, founder of Nerdist and self-crowned King of the Nerds, directing abusive behavior toward his ex-girlfriend, Chloe Dykstra. While this news is upsetting, it isn’t surprising. In the world of #MeToo and #TimesUp it has been proven again and again that there are men in media who claim to be allies to feminism are only using the term without living the term.
In her account, she details his various forms of emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse. Dykstra laments on the controlling and dangerous nature of her ex-boyfriend. She said,
“Our relationship started out poorly. Within 2 weeks, rules were quickly established.”
In addition to rules, curfews, and the inability to speak in public or take pictures of them together, Dykstra says she was also sexually assaulted multiple times during their relationship. These types of emotional abuse and manipulation are far too common.
Unfortunately, people—willfully or otherwise—equate “abuse” to only physical violence and “harassment” to sex-for-favors or career progress. They either don’t realize or don’t accept things like hostile work environment, creepy behavior, gaslighting, and other forms of abuse as abuse. Women around the world and in fandoms often face these types of hostility, including from men who claim to be allies.
This new is particularly not surprising in the world of nerd culture. In November 2017 finally DC fired their longtime editor Eddie Berganza. I say finally because his behavior of sexual harassment was well known within DC and the comic community, but was only fired once BuzzFeed News released a through report included multiple sources and searing evidence.
This is of course not the only instance within entertainment—and nerd culture specifically—where abusers, harassers and problematic bullies have gotten away with egregious behavior until it was widely reported on. A survey done by USA Today found that 94% of women in the entertainment industry say they have been harassed or assaulted. The examples of problematic men in the nerd industry is long and include the likes of Joss Whedon, TJ Miller, Dan Harmon, Andrew Kreisberg, and many more. Furthermore, many of these men will be quick to tell you their role in creating and promoting powerful women in the various mediums.
However, does it matter what you promote if your personal actions indicate otherwise?
Recently, Ethan Van Sciver has called himself a feminist and has worked on books featuring strong female superheroes including Gail Simone’s run on Wonder Woman. Yet he has been in the middle of controversy for his harassing behavior. In a BuzzFeed news article about the growing movement of ComicsGate he defended his actions and behavior as being,
“in the middle of an enormous culture war.”
On multiple occasions he has greatly contributed to the harassment of Kelly Marie Tran in his tirade against Rose Tico and her role in the Star Wars franchise. Say what you will about Rose’s character, but his crusade is hypocritical compared to the a feminist narrative he has toted in the past.
Far be it from me to define anyone’s feminism, but to me feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.” This should always include women of color, disabled women, trans women, and men hurt by the patriarchy’s push of toxic masculinity. Saying all this is only one part of being a feminist; the other is acting on it. Being an ally is about truly being an ally—not just saying you’re one while harassing or abusing women.
More men (and women) within our fan community need to speak up against sexism, harassment, and dangerous behavior, overt, subtle, or otherwise. It should not solely rest on the shoulders of women to call out problematic men within our community.
It is not an easy question to ask if you can still enjoy the art while knowing the egregious behavior of the artist. However, we cannot be afraid to stop supporting humans who do not respect other humans. There is no movie, comic, art, or other entertainment that can justify the actions of Chris Hardwick and the other men like him. If we as a fans of comics and all that is nerdy decide together not to support problematic people, we can make way for equally creative women and men of all backgrounds to push new, innovative, and inclusive storylines.
In addition to writing and tweeting into the void, Elizabeth Garcia enjoys applying ethical and political theory to modern comics while wearing leggings and drinking wine with her cat on her beat-up couch.