My friend Lindsay tweeted that this afternoon. I had favorited it, but I hadn’t retweeted it, so when I saw the second tweet, I went ahead and did it. Because there’s no reason not to, and—maybe because of this nonsense going on today where a bunch of nerds are mad that Thor is going to be a woman in Marvel’s interpretation of the character for a while—it reminded me of that page from Hitman.
Hitman was enjoying its run when I was 17 or so, and it was my jam. It was funny and mean-spirited and violent, but also very smart and about, like, manhood and honor and brotherhood and all of stuff that I was passionately interested in interpretations of when I was trying to figure out what kind of man I wanted to become. (Definitely one who read and wrote about comic books a lot.)
And these four panels—I remember them very well, even though I first saw them 17 years ago. Because I remember reading that and thinking, “I should never say that word again.”
Because the character of Tommy Monaghan up there is cool—he’s brave and honorable and funny, someone created specifically for 17 year olds who like swearing and fancy themselves iconoclastic to look up to. So when there’s an entire four-panel sequence devoted specifically to telling those young men that calling a woman a bitch is a bad thing, that if you do that you’re not on the team, that if you want to be the sort of cool guy that Tommy is (and why are you reading the book, if you don’t look up to the character?), you can not use that word. The type of person who would call a woman a bitch is the exact opposite of the kind of guy you want to be.
It’s dumb, kind of, because it’s a comic book about a guy with x-ray vision who kills superpowered bad guys for money. There’s an issue where all of the animals at the Gotham City Zoo become zombies and he clubs a zombie seal to death. It’s not mature. But neither was I, and I knew that this was a thing I needed to give some thought to, because it was treated as something serious. Four panels of making it clear that the sort of guy who calls women bitches is a shitty person.
Because before that, I hadn’t really thought about it. I don’t think I used “bitch” particularly often, but it was a word, you know? It was in my vocabulary, and it had a definition: “woman or girl who does something that I don’t like.” It’s a teacher who is strict with hall passes, or a friend’s mom who enforces a strict curfew, or a girl who makes fun of your haircut or something.
It really hadn’t occurred to me until I saw the use of the word made into a huge deal that it was different from any other swear word that was fun to say. And once that was pointed out to me in terms that made using the word “bitch” seem like one of the more shameful things that a man could do to a woman, it stuck with me that I didn’t want to be that sort of man.
So when Lindsay tweeted that she wanted to see her dude friends make that point, rather than just big-ups her for making the point, I remembered this again. Because if you do this, you are off the team. If you use words like “bitch” or “cunt” to describe a woman, you should feel as ashamed and embarrassed and horrible as Tommy Monaghan does in those panels where Tiegel thought he was going to call her that. But if we don’t talk about that—if we don’t make it clear that you’re playing for the team made up of shitty people who think that women deserve their own special class of insults to put them in their place—then that keeps on happening.
I’m glad I read Hitman when I was 17, goofy as it could be at times. And I’m glad I have people like Lindsay Eyth in my life to remind me that guys like me are responsible for making sure that other dudes get the message.