I love being a part of various communities. The concept of egalitarian and friendly groupings centered around specific works and industries that encourages instead of simply “regulating” fans and members is exciting. Be it music, cartooning, writing, journalism and publishing, or even just being a member of a “MST3K” online fan community, community is strong, it is supporting, and it presents a front of legitimacy to both identify the subculture as well as help defend those communities when various other cultures and industries feel threatened by them.

What I wonder though sometimes, is whether or not this sense of unity within communities makes us blind to criticism amongst said communities?

In particular several points come to mind that I’ve observed in online communities regarding accusations of specific discrimination against female authors and artists at “Big 2” comic book publisher DC Comics, the controversy regarding Joe Biel of Microcosm Publishing, and the debates between online publishers like Punknews.org and the fanzine “I Live Sweat” regarding the treatments of women, issues of masculinity, and prevalence of sexism in independent music.

I don’t want to get into specifics and debating sides because A) I’ll fully admit to not having all the information and background necessary to make those sorts of criticisms and rundowns and B) this isn’t about specifically talking about those incidents and debates.  I want to highlight these specific instances because a part of why they came to my attention arose from disbelief within the communities that there WAS criticism going on.  Surely non-traditional industries and communities couldn’t have “bad” people in them or have a need to improve themselves. Especially when that community has for so long prided itself on being counter to mainstream ideals regarding social behavior and how industry works.

It’s sad that this isn’t the case, but the reaction also brought to mind my original argument;

Why is it so hard for communities that have worked for so hard to establish themselves as being at least partially counterculture-related to recognize that it’s not impossible for members of our own community to be less-than-stellar or even just be flawed in some manner? Do we automatically have to accept every aspect and every action for the sake having that unified solidarity as a community?

And while that might seem like there’s an obvious answer to that question, think long and hard about how much more slack you or someone you might know has given or is willing to give towards ideas and individuals within the community for the sake of maintaining legitimacy.

I’m not asking that we specifically give up on community. Not at all.  In fact I hope that we can actually help our communities by being willing to be more critical of them. A machine can’t work without a constant state of maintenance and repair, so why should the machinery of a community be any different? We need to keep a metaphorical eye on the gears, so to speak, to tweak them every so often and fix the ones that don’t work.




Writer, occasional cartoonist, teacher.

Things I share: Skills & techniques (as a teacher), thoughts and ideas (with my writing), art and humor (through my comics).