Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

This is not a political blog

This is not and has never been intended to be a political blog. This blog is about comics and other pop-cultural-y enjoyments, plain and simple. Feminism comes up a lot because I'm female and that will invariably affect the way I percieve comics/other enjoyments. But this isn't a feminist/political blog in and of itself.

That's why, initially, when famous internet blogger Amanda Marcotte outright plagiarized an article from blogger Brownfemipower, I was horrified and disgusted, but I didn't say anything about it. We have one of the most prominent feminist bloggers outright plagiarizing from the work of a blogger of color and acting appallingly in the comment sections of posts in which she's called out. She may not have quoted word-for-word, but paraphrasing is also plagiarism, and clearly there was a lot of that done. All it would have taken is one link to reference her source!

I still think it's shameful that most mainstream feminist blogs have done jack shit to call her on it. Oh sure, that idiotic Open Source Boob thing manages to catch their eye, but not one of their own plagiarizing someone who ought to also be seen as one of their own but clearly is not.

But I'm being a hypocrite. Because I didn't post anything about it either and while I'll never have the traffic that those blogs will have, it's still important to talk about this sort of thing. To call people out on this sort of horrifying behavior.

I convinced myself that because this wasn't a political blog that I shouldn't talk about this matter. Then I saw this.

Fuck. That.

How the fuck did that get past the publisher? Apparently they wanted retro. Well they got retro, all right. The blatant, undeniably racist imagery is, I guess, just some kind of bonus. In their apology, they claim they weren't thinking. That's for damn sure.

And what does Amanda Marcotte say about this?

I see the concerns about the images. I didn’t choose them, and rest assured if I had looked them over, I would have said something and had them changed before it went to print. I have sent the concerns onto the publisher.


This isn't even the first time this has happened! What about the original cover of the book? The one that apparently lead to a claim that "avowed liberals" ought to be given some sort of benefit of the doubt and we should assume that it's meant with coy irony?

No. It doesn't work that way. Not any more than a self avowed feminist would get a pass on blatantly sexist work. A liberal does not get a pass here. People earn the benefit of the doubt. And dismissive comments or huffy excuses are fairly easy ways to lose it.

The original cover is no longer available at Ms. Marcotte's link of course. It was a pastiche/homage to King Kong that was viewed as racist by a number of people. I've never seen the image myself, so I can't judge, but I can judge Ms. Marcotte's response. Notice, how in the Pandagon post, she edits to say that she's passed the concerns along (THAT sounds familiar) where it would be reviewed. I note that while she points out the problem of a "potential rights issue" there is no mention of the allegations of racism.

(Edited: Lauredhel at Hoyden About Town has the old cover here.)

That's convenient.

I don't buy that Ms. Marcotte didn't see the prints before they went out. After a mistake like the previous one? She clearly had enough influence to convince them to change the cover image, which she had well in advance. There is very little reason why she couldn't have had a look and caught them making the same mistake twice.

Actually, I amend that. Not the same mistake twice, the same mistake once again but even more blatant!

Seriously, I can buy being ignorant that a King Kong pastiche has racist connotations. I may well have not caught them myself, but this involves a white woman saving a white man from dark-skinned spear chucking natives!!!.

Either Ms. Marcotte is a complete and utter idiot or she brushed off the concerns of a considerable portion of her audience as meaningless and never gave a second thought to the people she might have hurt.

This has gone beyond mere privilege-based insensitivity. What we have here are repeated occurrences of racist behavior. We have someone who has appropriated the words of a blogger of color, involved in the use of blatantly racist depictions, who has responded to any criticism with dismissiveness, haughtiness, scorn, and even in some cases outright venom.

I don't think Ms. Marcotte is ignorant or clueless. I don't think she's an idiot either.

I think that Amanda Marcotte is really and truly a racist.

Oh and by the way? If Ms. Marcotte were a man, I don't think there'd be any talk of some kind of "safe space" from which to issue an apology. Why the fuck should she get one? The Open Source Boob guy didn't get one. Brownfemipower certainly didn't get one!

No. If there's an apology to be made, if there's an apology seriously meant, she can make it. She certainly hasn't been a slouch in appearing in many of the comment threads about the subject, so why not drop an "I'm sorry" instead? Or on that famous blog I've heard so much about. What was it called? Pendagon? Pandragon?

Oh well. I'm sure it will come to me.

(Edited for an update: Ms. Marcotte has indeed apologized for the content of the book. I'm glad to see that, though I can't help but note the link to the Seal apology with "they accept full responsibility." Classy.

An apology for general conduct during the various scandals would possibly be appreciated too, but that's probably hoping for a bit too much to ask for.)


  • At April 26, 2008 8:40 AM, Blogger Elayne said…

    Amanda has apologized, but the thing that perplexes me the most is, there are tons of comic book artists able to re-create a "retro" look. Why couldn't Seal Press have just hired someone to draw the cover and illustrations?

  • At April 26, 2008 8:41 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Thanks for the link, I'll put it in the post.

  • At April 26, 2008 9:00 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    And that's a very good point about the artists. If they can't find something jungle themed that isn't racist, they could have someone draw it.

  • At April 26, 2008 9:06 AM, Blogger SallyP said…


  • At April 26, 2008 9:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    OK, question then.

    How would you do it?

    I can see the bad choice of imagery.
    At least she got called out for it. To do otherwise would have been completely hypocritical.

  • At April 26, 2008 9:18 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Honestly. I'd just change the title. From the sound of it, it's not a major theme of the book and it's not particularly original or clever.

    Maybe theme the illustrations around witch burning/hanging, with maybe a gender reversed theme. There's a lot more significant feminist themes there.

    If we MUST keep the Jungle title, I would emphasize the danger coming from the wilderness or animals. There's no need to bring humans into it at all.

    Heck. Why not a giant anaconda? You get phallic imagery AND danger to save the fellow from.

    For that matter, why do the protagonists need to be white anyway?

    I think a good artist could pull a retro-style image without the caricatures, easy.

  • At April 26, 2008 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ah, Kal- you make perfect sense to me. That sounds like a much better idea. And you did it in 10 minutes.

  • At April 26, 2008 12:26 PM, Blogger Greg Sanders said…

    Are there any links accusing of plagiarism that quote the allegedly plagiarized statements rather than link to BFP's blog?

    Unfortunately, since she's taken her site down, the arguments based on linking now have a lot of dead links.

  • At April 26, 2008 1:06 PM, Blogger Dane said…

    I can definitely see the coy irony in the retro-images. It also explains why, in an aesthetic sense, why they would choose a civilized white person to kick savage black shaman: In a retro sense, that's very true to colonial literature. But like you said, Kal, that doesn't take away its base meaning.

    What are the black people in the pictures suppose to symbolize anyway? A repressive conservative culture toward women? Is that supposed to make it better? It's just an odd allusion to me in the first place.

  • At April 26, 2008 3:07 PM, Blogger Ami Angelwings said…

    *sighs* I hope Amanda finally loses all credibility with this... I can't believe she still has defenders :(

    I'm glad you talked about this tho even if you thought it was outside the scope of your blog :)

  • At April 26, 2008 4:07 PM, Blogger Alexandra said…

    Thank. You.

    She clearly had enough influence to convince them to change the cover image

    And yet there are still legions of defenders out there saying that it's all on the publisher, that she couldn't possibly have done anything ... which, as you so elegantly point out, is bullshit.

    I hope Amanda finally loses all credibility with this...

    You and me both, Ami.

    And as for her tepid half-apology ... interesting how she can bring herself to "apologize" for something (and yet, somehow, disavow all responsibility) only when she hears that some white feminists might boycott her book. When her book sales aren't on the line (as in the BFP incident), she throws tantrum after tantrum in others' blogs about how her critics are just trying to sabotage her career/are jealous of her book deal, but when it actually looks like her career might be impacted? Roll out the apology.

    Oh, and Ms. Marcotte, if I fuck up, I apologize IMMEDIATELY. I don't spend several days "making sure my words are right" (paraphrased from a comment of hers on Feministe). That's what PR folks do. And liars.

    ...Sorry. This has so angered me that I ended up ranting in your blog. Apologies.

  • At April 26, 2008 4:27 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Greg, have you tried webarchive or google caches or anything like that? Unfortunately the best I can do is offer background write-ups from people who'd seen the entire thing. A note that the background information is provided by a supporter/defender of brownfemipower and may be considered biased.

    Personally, I saw the problemchylde page before brownfemipower took her blog down and it was pretty clear. Unless Ms. Marcotte has a hive mind which developed the idea simultaneously, the linked parts were clearly lifted/paraphrased from the original. But I'm not expecting anyone to take my word for it.

    I don't necessarily think the plagiarism/appropriation is necessary the big deal here but how she conducted herself in various blog comments and other places in response to the allegation.

    Certainly the fact that feministe was the only mainstream feminist site to cover the issue/allegation at all for a long time didn't help.

    Honestly, it's a subject that I probably would have given her the benefit of the doubt over, if not for her responses (some of which can be seen in the feministe thread) and for everything else that has happened. The trend that emerges is fairly awful.

  • At April 26, 2008 7:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thank you. I had no idea this was going on. After reading all the other links (again, thanks), I think it's necessary to continue to stand firm on this, because it has been a trend that's been around since I can remember. I'm talking about so-called liberals revealing their racism and not owning up to it. As a pale latino, I've heard that kind of talk, because folks thought that they were safe from being called out. It's hypocrisy at its most offensive.
    P.S. The images were that of comics, so the subject is relevant to your blog.

  • At April 26, 2008 8:00 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Honestly, I don't care if it's relevant anymore. :-) Comic images or no, I'm glad I said it.

    And I can only imagine the crap you've been stuck hearing. I wish people would figure out that stupidity crosses political lines.

  • At April 26, 2008 8:09 PM, Blogger Greg Sanders said…

    Kalinara: Google cache may be the best bet. I'd done some other Googling around but similarly just background defenders.

    Thanks for the reply, I do consider you a pretty dang credible source, unfortunately I hadn't heard about it before today, probably just because, as you say, didn't see other mainstream feminist sites pick it up. Still it is one of those things I want to read for myself, so maybe I'll do some cache checks later.

  • At April 26, 2008 10:25 PM, Blogger notintheface said…

    I don't know about you, Kalinara, but I can't hear or read "it's a jungle out there" without Randy Newman's "Monk" theme playing in my head.

    Also, I can think of several artists who could have recreated that retro look without the racist undertones. Eduardo Barreto, Dave Gibbons, Steve Rude, and Mike Allred immediately spring to mind. And after reading the last issue of that "Suicide Squad" mini, Elayne,I'm figuring Javier and/or your hubby could have as well.

  • At April 27, 2008 5:38 AM, Blogger Brett said…

    This whole situation seems like bad times. The prospect of some kind of feminist blogger schism over those images seems a little melodramatic. Notwithstanding the obvious racist overtones of the images, drawing the line in the sand there is more than a little hasty. I am much more concerned with the theft of intellectual property of a black woman by a white woman than of some white woman making her book cover the artistic equivalent of a blackfaced lawn-jockey statue. There is at least palpable harm there, and not just uncomfortable feelings. Kinda sucks it was the same person doing both though. Really no way to work around that. Sounds like she was right to apologize and hopefully it was sincere.

  • At April 27, 2008 7:24 PM, Blogger Alexandra said…

    Brett - Two things.

    1. Coming right on the heels of the plagiarism/appropriation issue means that these pictures aren't really a separate issue, but an extension of the previous pattern of racism.

    2. Amanda did not apologize for plagiarizing/appropriating from BFP or anyone else. She remains adamant that she did nothing wrong there and is incredibly rude about it. She "apologized" in a tepid i'm-totally-not-to-blame-for-this manner for the images in her book, which she still claims not to have known about, and which she didn't think was a big deal until some white buddies of hers said they wouldn't buy it with those images in. We're still waiting on a real apology for anything.

  • At April 29, 2008 3:29 PM, Blogger Kevin Huxford said…

    When I caught up to this story, I saw that Marcotte and Seal Press had apologized and figured it was too late for it to serve any purpose by joining the fray this late. Silly me.

    Ridiculous stuff. All this extra info paints a much worse picture than I caught by breezing over it last week.


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