Tuesday, October 9, 2007

How to Win Influence and People Friends.

Stephanie cringed.

She could hear the footsteps approaching the cubicle. To most people they wouldn't have sounded any different than any of the other several dozen footsteps that passed the area during the day, but Stephanie could pick out the specific ring of leather on tile at that precise tempo, then the distinctive scuff on the carpet, as the footsteps neared her cubicle...

"STEPHANIE!" She jumped, as a sheaf of papers flew by her head, splattering on her desk. "WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?"

"M-Mr. Hayden, I--"

"Do you have the nerve to call this a report? Well? LOOK AT IT!"

She glanced at the pile, held loosely by a couple of staples. The pages that were visible had countless circles and x-marks done in orange highlighter, notes scribbled in the margins.

"Here!" Mr. Hayden reached down and flipped the pile open to some point in the middle. "Have you even SEEN a report before? Do you have any idea how they're organized? This thing is put together like some twelve-year-old's FANTASY of how a report is made! And here--" shuffling through the pages, stabbing at one part with a finger, "--what kind of bullshit is this?? Did you just copy it verbatim from a romance novel??"

People began peeking over the tops of other cubicles. The normal noise and bustle had gone deathly quiet, save for Mr Hayden's bellowing.

"P-please, Mr. Hayden, not so loud--"

"Loud?? LOUD??? I'LL GIVE YOU LOUD!" He grabbed the report and threw it straight up. The staples gave way halfway towards the ceiling fan; white leaves speckled with orange rained across the entire area. "I HAVE TRIED BEING NICE, REASONABLE--" (when? wondered Stephanie) "--AND IT HAS NEVER WORKED! I WILL CONTINUE TO YELL AT YOU AS LOUD AS I PLEASE UNTIL I GET A REPORT OUT OF YOU THAT IS ACTUALLY COMPETENT AND DOESN'T OFFEND MY SENSIBILITIES! I SWEAR, ONE OF THESE DAYS I WILL GET YOU TO DO THE JOB I HIRED YOU TO DO!"

"B-b-but mr. h-hayden," Stephanie squeaked, "Mr. Owens hired me, not you--"

"I DON'T CARE!"

********************

Stephanie might be incompetent. Mr. Hayden may have every right to yell at her. Or she may be blameless, and he may expect too high a standard of work from her.

Either way, I doubt there are many people who wouldn't think Mr. Hayden is an asshole. Possibly he and some of his fictional business cronies get together, and they congratulate him on the way he slaps his employees around. We could say then, that although they may not think of each other as assholes, they probably all are.

Much has been said lately about the relative merits of angry, abusive ranting versus nicely phrased, polite conversation as regards their effect on feminist concerns in comics. Which works better? Hell, I don't know. I know I personally tend to dig in my heels harder in resistance in direct proportion to the obnoxiousness of whoever may be trying to influence or persuade me. But I imagine some people might cave in when faced with anger and heat blasting at them over some issue.

That's not what I want to say. Be quiet, be loud, be rude, be polite. You have the right to do all that, and in any combination.

You have the right to be a complete and utter asshole, if you wish.

What I'm here to say in this post is: at least, though, be aware that you are indeed an asshole.

I know, some of you think your cause is just and right, and you justify being an asshole on that basis. You have to be an asshole in order to get your point across, that's what matters most. Well, if you believe that, fine. But you are still an asshole, regardless of how noble your motives are. Just remember that.

No, I'm not exempt. I've been an asshole before, probably will be an asshole at times in the future. I try to be aware of when I am being an asshole, when it is useful, when it is gratuitous.

Here's a quick asshole test. Think of something you ranted about recently. Swap it around. If, say, your comments on other people's comics covers were applied to a business report you wrote, would you feel insulted? Do you really think you'd be motivated by an honest desire to change, or would you resent the criticism, or change out of intimidation? Would you get pissed off if someone said to you what you've just said to someone else? Well... you were probably an asshole, then.

Again, hey: you have every right to be an asshole. It might even be necessary. But don't kid yourself that you aren't being an asshole. Don't think that your cause makes being an asshole something else.

That goes for everyone.

11 comments:

Rational Mad Man said...

Now Anon, Dont you know that being the asshole is MY job?

Why do you think I have such problem with feminists, they think they can out asshole me!

Susan said...

I'm not sure your analogy works out, since most of the time, when I see people ranting about things like comics covers, they aren't the superiors of the cover creators, nor are they even people a creator is likely to encounter in daily life.

Additionally, Stephanie, in her cubicle, has no option to remove herself from an unpleasant situation. While I, as a hypothetical creator, may not enjoy having my work trashed by an asshole, I have the option of not paying that asshole any attention.

Being an asshole on the internet isn't always awesome, but it's hardly the hardcore bullying you're portraying here.

Anon, A Mouse said...

Susan:

Oh, to be sure, if this had been "Stephanie the comics creator" vs. "Hayden the online jerk", it would have ended with Stephanie taking a swig from a Mylanta bottle and turning off her computer. "Jerk. I don't need this."

(Although there ARE always options, even for Cubicle Stephanie. She can quit. That may make life much more difficult, but it is an option.)

It simply struck me that some of the ranting and venom coming from some folks who call themselves feminists was of a type, that if it had been in some sort of reversed situation, maybe in something other than the comics industry, would have been considered bad behavior, possibly even abusive and sexist. Even that would have been hardly worth commenting on if there hadn't been a rash of rationalizations and justifications in the blogosphere recently: "But I HAVE to be nasty and loud to get anything done!"

If, say, Rational Mad Man had used similar kinds of language when talking about, I dunno, Trina Robbins, wouldn't he be taken to task not only for his opinion, but the way he presented it?

I simply don't think one should be able to smugly think to themselves, "well, I'm doing the RIGHT and GOOD thing by speaking out, so I'm not really an asshole when I act like an asshole." You ARE an asshole, regardless of how noble your motives are, or how much you justify it. And it's your right to be an asshole, just don't fool yourself into thinking you're something else.

V_Vendeta said...

I'm not as good as you writting (at least not in english XD), but i'll try to follow your analogy:

Steffanie come to Mr Haydens office. It was late and thera was no one else. She knocked on

the door, went inside with her head low and gave him the report. Mr Hayden didn't even look

at the report and said.

- give me a blow job
- what? - steffanie was scared - Sorry Mr Hayden but...

He didn't let her finish her sentence.

- Come on Steffanie, that's the only thing you worth for.

Steffanie walked to the door scared, but before she reached it MR HAyden added in a very

calm voice:

- If you walk through that door I'll fire you.

Stefannie froze, she needed that work. Meanwhile Mr Hayden got up and cut the distance

between them. He was standing just by her side and he was taller and stronger.

- You are not going anywere

Mr Hayden put his hand in her shoulder and tried to make her knelt.


--> Now, lets roleplay Steffanie has several options. Do you think she should try to being

nice or do you think she should shout, even if probably there is no one to hear her and if

there is, they would think that she has make it up and she is and ashole. There's other

options, of course, she could walk away and lose her job in the hope that she could fins

another one better.

In my opinion, that second part grabs better the power dinamics: No easy choice and no

matter what you'll lose something. And you are right, you'll be perceived as an ashole if

you shout or fight back. I'll let you decide if that's true.

James Meeley said...

V:

Wow. You actually compare someone's not liking a work of fiction, to a person being subjected to sexual harressment and possible rape? I just have no words, save these:

In your example, she can use the power of the law for what he did. There is no law that protects someone from not enjoying a work of fiction featuring characters they may like, but do not own.

While anon's example might have it's flaws, he never compared someone being an asshole to a criminal act. And in your attempted comparison, you can't even prove that the creator was trying to be an asshole with a work someone didn't enjoy, much less how that is in any way equal to an actual crime.

But I'm sure many creators, should they see this, would appreciate your attempt to paint you (or anyone) not liking their work as a 'crime" against the readers.

Anon, A Mouse said...

V_Vendeta:

I think you have completely misunderstood what was going on with my writing. I am going to spell it out plainly for you. I hope you don't think it too condescending, but if I understand you correctly, English isn't your primary language, and that may have contributed to what I think is a complete breakdown of communication here.

In the fictional example, the boss, Mr. Hayden, does not actually represent bad bosses, or certain sexual dynamics. I chose his words in a way that made them similar to some things that feminists were saying about comics they did not like. In that way, he is actually a substitute for angry feminists, in the way he chooses to convey his dissatisfaction. Stephanie represents comics creators, the object of attacks from feminists.

For you to then put those same characters into a situation where the feminist substitute is sexually harassing the comic-creator substitute is not only kind of weird, it misses the point entirely.

Even if you switch what the characters represent, you are saying then, as James pointed out, that drawing a sexist comic book is in the same category as attempted rape, and that's a comparison I simply will not accept, ever.

V_Vendeta said...

Anon I understanded your analogy even if english isn't my primary language. I continued the same history to try to tell you that the power dinamics, aren't the same there's in your history.

I try to explain. Female comic reader are a minority, so they aren't in a power position as a boss. So Steffanies rol fits better than Mr Hayden. In fact Mr HAyden doesn't represent either comics creator, represents male fans. Comics creators in this case would be the mutual boss of Mr Hayden, the one who hire her. And the one who would have to chose who listen if she report what happened.

And no, saying that I said that: "drawing a sexist comic book is in the same category as attempted rape" is a great missunderstud from my point. My point is, in your story Mr Hayden didn' need to shout because he was in a position of power. Switching power dinamics I tried to show you that maybe from the point of view of female comics shoutting it's the only thing they can do.

Though what I did it's walk away from that comics and buy the few of them that catter to me. And dont foul yourself I lost. Because now I read really few comics, even if I love them. Now that I have money I don't have comics to buy, and I'm not the only one.

Now if you want to think that they are asholes because they complain, it's your call. But I think it's important for you to remenber that their opinions aren't regarded as important as the ones of male fans. Maybe for them just being listened to it's an achievement, because before they weren't.

Anon, A Mouse said...

"Now if you want to think that they are asholes because they complain, it's your call."

No, it's not that they are assholes because they complain.

It's the WAY someone complains that makes them an asshole.

As I said both in my original post, and earlier right here in the comments section, I'm not saying that you should never be an asshole, I'm just saying that you shouldn't fool yourself into thinking you aren't an asshole.

What you seem to be saying is that the ends justify the means. This kind of thinking only goes so far, though.

James Meeley said...

Female comic reader are a minority, so they aren't in a power position as a boss.

On their blogs, where they act like the asshole, they are.

My point is, in your story Mr Hayden didn' need to shout because he was in a position of power. Switching power dinamics I tried to show you that maybe from the point of view of female comics shoutting it's the only thing they can do.

Actually, it's not all they can do. They have other options, other choices, other possibilities. They are CHOOSING to shout (and, in many cases, be assholes about it when they do). But that wasn't anon's point, either.

His was that if they want to shout and be assholes about it, that is up to them. But the fact they are doing "for a cause", doesn't mean they aren't being assholes, the way so many comic feminists, of late, try to justify it to others and even themselves. You are still being an asshole, you are just an asshole with a cause. Nothing more.

Now if you want to think that they are asholes because they complain, it's your call. But I think it's important for you to remenber that their opinions aren't regarded as important as the ones of male fans. Maybe for them just being listened to it's an achievement, because before they weren't.

It's not the complaining that makes them assholes. It's the WAY they complain that does. There are ways to complain without being an asshole about it. They are choosing to not use them. No one is being FORCED to be an asshole about their complaints, which is one of the false justifications some comic feminists try to hide behind, whenever they are called out on their own poor behavior.

And it seem very obvious to some that by compaining and being assholes about it when they do, is, in fact, one of the root causes why people don't listen to them (or ignore the points they are trying to make). Because, V, tell me, do YOU listen to people who act like an asshole towards you? Or do you tell them to go take a flying leap and disregard everything they say, no matter what their point might be? A lot of folks will do the latter to someone who's being an asshole towards them, even if the complaint they they are being an asshole about is valid. Because no one heeds or thinks highly of an asshole.

If comic feminists want to take that route and be that way, that's up to them. It IS, however, a much harder road to hoe. It will make the struggle they have all the more difficult for them and make persuading people to their side of the issue even MORE of an uphill battle. But that's their call to make, just as anon says. But if they think the fact they are "fighting for a good cause" washes away their being assholes in how they fight it, they are sadly mistaken. They are still assholes. They will always be seen as assholes, so long as they employ the attitude and re/actions of one. And if they expect people to "forgive them" for that and overlook the fact they are being assholes about their complaints, they are only deluding themselves. That will NEVER happen. So, the choice is theirs: Continue being assholes about what they don't like and be ignored (or ridiculed), or use a new tactic that might get people to listen. It's all up the them how things go down.

V_Vendeta said...

Actually, it's not all they can do. They have other options, other choices, other possibilities.

Which choices? walk away like I did? Sorry, buy sadly that won't get comics we like if we don't explain why we left.

Keep buying comics as they are even if there are things offensive to us? Sorry but that don't work either, because companies just asume that if we buy them thing are fine, or that it's not a big deal since we obviusly keep buying their comics.

I agree that it's better not insult people, but that doesn't implies that you can't critizie their work or the things about their work you don't like. These are two different things. I should know since thats the best way to improve my writting, endure the criticism, though about it, and try to understand the reasons behind. It's hard, true, but if you don't listen, then you'll become stagnant.

V, tell me, do YOU listen to people who act like an asshole towards you? Or do you tell them to go take a flying leap and disregard everything they say, no matter what their point might be?

It's funny because you seem to think that you always have the choice to ignore asholes. But I had been espected to actually listen to many asholes and laught at their sexist jokes (or plain insults)just because I liked comics. And it's funny that you mention that, because that situation was the result of trying persuade people by being nice. Befriend then and all that.

I'm sorry to tell you, but you seem to asume that all female comics fans use the same tactics and that they haven't tried other tactics than shout or complain loudly.

From my own experience and my point of view, it seems like they already tried being nice, got feed up of being ignored, treated poorly, insulted or harassed, and decided to try in a more blunt way.

If you have other sugerences, I'm sure that some people would welcome them, but don't just asume that we aren't tried being nice already. Or that being nice would work either. I tried and failed, and now I just give up on superhero comics. At the end I lose using the same tactics you keep saying that would work. At least the woman you are calling asholes, have force people to recognice that they are fans on their own and thats more than what I did.

James Meeley said...

Which choices? walk away like I did?

Well, that IS an option. A very EXTREME one and not what i was thinking of, but it is one. Of course, I was thinking of something a little less "kill or cure" style.

Like how about working more to support the kind of works you like which already exist? Granted, there may not be a lot of stuff out there, but in the market today, the diversity of the product is greater than in any time past. There is SOMETHING out there for everyone, even if it isn't coming from the publisher you want or features the characters you know.

So, expand your own mind and try something that isn't from Marvel and DC. Reach outside there offerings. There's an option.

How about working to bring more diversity within the customer and creator base? The product may be diverse, but the majority of the work is still done by white males. There is an organization, called P.O.W.E.R. in comics (here's the link: http://powerincomics.ning.com/ ). They are trying to use positive means to effect a chnage, by trying to get more women and minorities into comics on every level, from being creators and retailer, to merely reading stuff. These are people who don't look to the publishers as the only ones who can fix everything. They are taking it upon themsevles to do more. There's another option.

Of course, as has been said before, there is the option of "make the comics." If you feel there isn;t enough of a type of material out there, you have the choice to make it exist yourself. And you don't have to be the one to actually write and draw it, you can work behind the scenes. there's more to making comics than being a writer or artist. You can be an editor, or a PR person, you can be a publisher (if you have the money to front). Making the comics isn't the insult so many comic feminists have taken it as. It's a legitimate piece of advice.

And these are just the options off the top of my head, mind you. All of which are much more helpful and would work to bring change through positive means. The kind of things that would get people to listen to them, over the raging and insulting they do at their blogs.

I agree that it's better not insult people, but that doesn't implies that you can't critizie their work or the things about their work you don't like. These are two different things.

I'm glad you noted the difference, because I completely agree. Unfortunately for you, though, a lot of feminist comic bloggers think mixing the two together means they should be taken seriously. But that's not how it works.

The minute you sink to throwing around insults or name-calling, the minute to stop talking about the work and make personal and moral judgements of the creator and the reading audience, you've crossed the line from "critizing the work" and that is when people will either get defensive towards what you said, attack you in the same way, or ignore anything you say.

Comic feminists have tried to justify this poor behavior, hiding behind the sheilds of "I don't have a choice," "I'm just venting," and "The publisher/creator/audience have a guilty conscience." All of which doesn't excuse their being assholes, just as anon noted. It also shows their own inability to admit they know they are assholes. That somehow the cause they fight for makes doing it okay. Yet, if those same tactics are used against them, suddenly there's no justification for those people. Being a part of a minority doesn't get you a free pass in acting like an asshole. Either such tactics are wrong, no matter who uses them, or they aren't, which means those who use them against you aren't wrong to do so. You can't have it both ways.

If you have other sugerences, I'm sure that some people would welcome them, but don't just asume that we aren't tried being nice already. Or that being nice would work either. I tried and failed, and now I just give up on superhero comics. At the end I lose using the same tactics you keep saying that would work. At least the woman you are calling asholes, have force people to recognice that they are fans on their own and thats more than what I did.

I never said it was a sure bet they would work. Never. The only thing you can be sure of in this life, is that someday it will end for you (and everyone). Everything else is just a roll of the dice.

I also never said using non-asshole tactics would be easy, either. It's not. It's certainly harder than ranting and raving like a lunatic. But one thing I do know, from MY personal experiences, is no one listens to assholes. And if comic feminists think, for one blessed moment, that using those kinds of tactics is getting people to listen to them, they are sadly mistaken. All they've done, is get walls built up between people. Hardly the proper enviornment to foster discussion and resolving issues, is it?

And yes, you always have the choice to ignore assholes, even if you don't see that now. And I can tell you now, that the assholes in comic feminism are being ignored. Their tactics haven't gotten them one thing they want. The only thing it has gotten them is attacked in the same manner and laughed at, just as it happens with male comic fans who react in those ways (you know, the old "Simpsons Comic Book Guy" stereotype). Unless that's the reaction they are after, I'd have to call the "campaign of rage" a flop.

There are a lot of assholes out there, on both sides of the issues. But you aren't going to make things better by becoming one yourself. This is the lesson comic feminists seem to be overlooking. But, as anon has said, that is their right and choice. And I can't disagree with him on that, because he's completely and totally correct. But there is a cost that comes with that choice. If comic feminists are willing to pay it, then just keep raging on. All the justifications that anon has seen, though, would suggest that they don't want to pay it. So, the choice then comes down to this: Change your tactics, or stop justifying being an asshole. As I said before, you can't have it both ways. Being in a mirority or part of a "good" cause, doesn't negate the asshole-ishness in your actions that are those OF an asshole. If you can't stand the bitter taste of that reality, well, you always have the option to stop being that way. Otherwise, just accept the fact you are an asshole. It's really that simple.