I've avoided voicing a lot of my thoughts on the comments throughout this book. I didn't want to guide the reader through the story or colour interpretation of the audience. But now, whatever, fuck it. This isn't even about how people are interpreting the story, but their attitudes about men and women. I've grown fairly disgusted with the obvious thread of misogyny, and all this Stand By Your Man bullshit I've been reading over the last year has made me pretty nauseous.
My problem with the comments lately isn't, as has been suggested, that anyone has perceived Rick as being after Lauren, not whatsoever. It is the attacks on Lauren as being various levels of pernicious girlfriend because she refused to let men, underline men, dictate who her friends were, and sanctifying Sam as a done-wrong martyr who was completely reasonable in their eyes, even justifying an unprovoked fist fight because someone didn't say hi to him, and turning the blame for that back on her as well.
Rick is decried often for being rude to Lauren's boyfriend, though the rudeness shown to him by both Sam and Christo (in exactly the same manner in one case) goes overlooked, forgiven or edited in their minds. Some fine folks even went so far as to praise them for this rudeness from the very first chapter onward. Also overlooked, however, is the rudeness shown by Mulligan toward Lauren throughout the series, unchallenged by Sam at any point. I'm especially impressed by the notion that Lauren is a bad girlfriend for not disavowing Rick after he 'bad-mouths' Sam (despite her actually telling him to stop,) and that Sam is justified in his attack on that basis, but that Michelle's far tamer reaction to Mulligan trashing her friend is deemed by some as deplorable. The double-standard here should embarrass anyone guilty of it.
Lauren is berated endlessly for not respecting Sam's feelings, while no care is given in those comments that Sam is not respecting hers, not to mention that his feelings are unfounded jealousy and the perceived slight of being snubbed. Blame has been placed on her shoulders for Sam's reaction to stress, to his jealousy, for Christo's territorial behaviour, for not providing a full-throated indignation at the suggestion that a man who yelled at her may have abusive tendencies (check your local battered women's shelter for more information,) and even for not telling her already jealous boyfriend that the object of his jealousy may indeed have feelings for her. She's even been branded for being friends with a man at all.
Despite her protests to Sam that her feelings for Rick are purely platonic regardless of his, despite her announcement to Rick that she is in a committed relationship and her defense of her boyfriend in that same conversation, despite forgiving Sam for exploding at her, Lauren has become the focus of scorn, simply because she doesn't adhere to repressed hang-ups against platonic relationships. Even still, in the wake of Sam driving Lauren away, with her still professing only feelings of friendship toward Rick, her motives and her actions are still under scrutiny, she is still painted with infidelity.
Also, the frequent suggestion that Lauren led Rick on, despite affirming to him her devotion to Sam at least once, is repugnant. There's no shortage of comments that Lauren should have talked about nothing but her boyfriend and how she would never have sex with Rick, because the first and most important thing a woman should say about herself is whether a guy can fuck her. I'll point to Andy's encounter here http://picturesofyou.smackjeeves.com/comics/1488285/4-03-dont-forget-the-girl-8/ where a woman is clearly hitting on him and at no point does he mention that he has a girlfriend. Not a single admonishing comment from the audience there.
If the simple act of a woman not telling a man she isn't interested in him, and that is the flavour of many comments, equals in anyone's mind that she's leading him on, shame on that person. To think that the onus is on women to police men's affections, that a woman is responsible men's actions in this area is reprehensible. The further thought, as was ludicrously expressed in these comments as well, that a sexual assault resulting in Lauren's behaviour is absolutely horrifying. Beyond anything else said in the comments, that belief is the most putrid.
Add to all of this the erroneous claims that Lauren's friends have all warned her against Rick's intentions. It is ignored that Melanie expresses a fondness for him, that Kara offers nothing more than perspective, and that Michelle doesn't like either Rick or Sam, and advises Sam to back off. The opinions of these female characters are brushed aside or morphed into a condemnation that aligns with the male characters' views.
This all goes along with the shaming during this book of both Michelle and Vivian for daring to transgress their men. The stink of misogyny in the comments is difficult to miss, though miss it, many have and keep doing. It's becoming harder and harder for me to read the messages left on the site, and more to know that this is a characteristic of at least some of my readers, both men and women. I am sure there will come no end of offense and dissent that this is untrue, but I am unconvinced by those arguments.
I can't change anyone's points of view, no matter how much I would like to do, and to bring everyone on board, but I'm not going to pretend I find them acceptable, no more than I would with racism or homophobia. I'm not interested in providing free entertainment to have people expound their man-centric views about it, and less to have them whine about how terrible my writing is when it doesn't line up with the male power fantasy some readers clearly want it to be. That's my view and I'm entitled to it, as everyone else is entitled to believe I'm full of shit and am pushing a radical feminazi agenda.
This comic is not anyone's forum for bashing disobedient women, and I'm well-done with letting it continue. This is not to say that the women in this comic or in life are saints and do not behave badly or that their actions are above scrutiny, but the psychology here is that they are behaving badly by not acquiescing to the desires of the male characters, and are at times treated as worse for doing the same things men do.
I pride myself that the Pictures of You audience stands above the immaturity and regressive litter box that is most of the internet, but lately, that level has dipped. I'm not looking for a comment field filled with platitudes, and I reject the inevitable accusations that I am. This is not an issue of the quality of my writing or the perception of that quality. It is a sure statement on the efficacy of my work that people become embroiled in my work to react so viscerally to it. There are frequent criticisms against my ability here, and I don't speak out against them, and I will continue not to do. That's not what this is about.
I want to encourage discussion and debate, but the dialogue in the comments has grown hateful, and I've noticed if no one else has that many previously frequent posters have stopped commenting, while new ones have shown up every day to disparage the female characters and nothing more. I'm not okay with that, neither should anyone else be.
I'm not here to call anyone anything, and no one should feel the need nor the inclination to defend themselves. In fact, perhaps, in lieu of defending yourself, if indeed you feel these thoughts are aimed at you, take a moment and consider them instead of casting them aside. No one ever thinks bad things about themselves or their actions, but nobody is so perfect as to be above reproach. The world might be a little better if they did. I still pride myself on having the finest audience in webcomics, I just hope we can all start acting like it again.