The Failures of the Valkyries
Late last week, The Valkyries, an organization dedicated to uniting women comic book retailers, disbanded. The move came on the heels of Jazmine Joyner’s accusations of failing to support women of color.
The Valkyries Disband
Working in the comics retail industry is tough. While comic book movies are thriving, the books themselves are not. On top of that, comics creators suffer harassment daily by entitled fans accusing them of overly moralizing in their books. Female creators endure this harassment much more than male creators. And female comic book store managers, owners, and workers suffer countless hours of gatekeeping weirdos making sure they’re “good enough” to be working in comic shops. As such, The Valkyries formed as a safe space for female comic book retailers to commiserate on Twitter and in a private Facebook group.
However, when Jazmine Joyner joined The Valkyries, she noticed a lack of women of color. She also noticed that when she commented on posts, her white colleagues shot down her comments with a barrage of negative. Finally, Joyner penned an op-ed for The MNT detailing The Valkyries unwavering support of Heather Antos, an editor at Marvel who was harassed after posting a picture while drinking a milkshake with friends. Joyner pointed out that women of color in the comics industry faced similar harassment daily, but rarely received support. After voicing her concerns with the group’s leadership, The Valkyries leader turned their conversation into an article for a major comics website. Joyner left the group, and on September 7th, the group disbanded.
Calling It Quits
After Joyner published her piece, The Valkyries announced their dissolution via Twitter. The group’s Twitter page disappeared, but the statement reads as follows:
The mission statement of The Valkyries since its foundation almost six years ago has always been to support women in comic book retail. When an organization stops supporting marginalized women, it is failing at supporting women. Because this has become the case for The Valkyries, it is time for the group to be disbanded.
This has not been an easy decision to make, however the current and former administrator group feels it is the right move when the organization is doing harm by failing at its stated purpose.
When The Valkyries was founded in 2013, it was unique. Online comic book retail support organizations were few and exclusionary. Online professional organizations to support women in comics and marginalized communities in comics were rare. Ten women formed the group to network and to support each other. As an organization, we advocated for positive, more inclusive industry change.
Over the years, the group grew from ten to six hundred and stagnant leadership allowed positive industry change to stop being a priority. For years the admins have asked for new volunteers to take on the responsibility of group administrators, but those calls have largely gone unanswered or have been answered exclusively by white women who would not be able to address the problem of marginalized members being ignored. We mention this to explain why the group admins do not see the situation as a solvable problem. We take responsibility for allowing the group to fail its members, particularly people of color and otherwise marginalized members. For this we are deeply sorry.
These days, the social media landscape for retailer professional support and women in comics is much broader. We hope this enables former members of The Valkyries to continue being active and supported in other online communities, and that if they wish, former members will feel empowered to create new communities to meet their needs.
During the writing of this article, The Valkyries re-activated their Twitter account and removed the statement posted above. Following the tweet containing the statement, the group received a fair amount of criticism for seemingly blaming women of color for their dissolution. They replaced the statement with tweets that say the following:
“Our statement from earlier today has been widely criticized, which is well-deserved. We made a serious mistake, and our sorry. In appearing to place the blame on women of color, we added insult to injury. We apologize to everyone who has been hurt by it. We also recognize that it was wrong not to bring our concerns to our members privately before announcing plans to disband. They deserved to have a say in the matter, and we apologize for taking these steps without consulting them.”
Comic books are for everyone. They show us what we can be at our best, and how our cruelty can isolate us. Since the beginning, comics were about doing the right thing for the most people. Unfortunately, we’re still learning what that means. On paper, The Valkyries is a wonderful idea, but it became unwieldy. Hopefully, the comics retail industry learns from this slip-up and does better by women of color in the future.