I must shamefully admit that some of the responses quoted in the second panel of Jim Hines’ comic once mirrored my own. I could barely contain my irritation when an individual would come forward to discuss his or her personal experience with racism or sexism in the entertainment industry (publishing, film, gaming, etc.) and yet refuse to name the individual who participated in the harassment or discrimination. How could one allow a bigot to stay in power and thwart the career of another black creator or prey upon another woman? As a victim, how could one willingly condone the cycle of abuse when the mere utterance of a name could “slay the dragon”?
I was so focused on winning the public war that I overlooked the private battle. These men and women have families to support, a desire to create that consumes them, and a reputation to uphold. To be marked as one who “named names,” one who made the company look bad—as opposed to the one actually engaging in the unsavory behavior—would jeopardize one’s career by alienating those in power. Coming forward, yet remaining vague regarding details, would allow the company in question to quietly rectify the situation while still alerting fans to the bigotry that continues to plague the industry.
Sometimes, often, the dragon is simply too powerful to be slain. But sometimes, often, individuals come forward privately, not publically. A female creator is told confidentially why it would be best for her to avoid a particular colleague or limit time alone with him; a black creator is quietly informed as to why certain individuals will not be receptive to his work. These hushed anecdotes act as precious guides, allowing creators to tiptoe past the dragon and navigate his lair successfully—or simply to find treasure and glory in a less guarded lair.
This is not to say that those who have named names have not chosen the proper path. As a reader (or player, or moviegoer), it can be quite satisfying to hear one acknowledge the source of a problem that, quite honestly, is evident in the work produced. Female fans and consumers of color are often dismissed as delusional when discussing institutionalized sexism and racism within the industry. When an actual creator comes forward and names names, there is a moment of vindication that is generally lost when a vague accusation is brought forth. For when a vague accusation is brought forth, reactionary fans will often label the whistleblower coming forward as a liar or bitter incompetent.
It is so difficult to make one’s way as a woman or a person of color in the entertainment industry that I would rather an individual do what is best for one’s career and the careers of one’s peers than to consider the wishes or comfort of a fan such as myself. The industry can only improve if these men and women are able to remain within it. If a quieter form of resistance is required, so be it.