When asked about this, the convention’s PR rep responded with a prime example of how not to respond to questions about your problematic programming:
In regards to the Women in Comics panel, I think it’s important to point out that it was a panel that took an historical view of women characters in comic books rather than the current role of women creators in the industry or diversity in comics — of which DCC has many with appropriately diverse panels.
It was about the past, not the present! So the inherent sexism is totes okay and appropriate! Besides, we had lots of other diverse panels! Just not on this subject.
The Women in Comics panel was a submitted panel that featured respected academics on the subject.
A bunch of dudes suggested it! Who are we to tell them they should have included some ladies? Like, maybe the foremost authority on the subject WHO IS ALSO A GUEST AT THIS CONVENTION.
What, there’s a movement for men to pledge not to participate in all-male panels? Nope, never heard of that. Would never mention such a thing to the awesome dudes who submit panels to us.
And there’s, like, no way that bias in academia played any role whatsoever in the fact that a bunch of dudes are the only experts we respect. Nuh-uh.
As for panel acceptance: Denver Comic Con vets panels based on their proposal. The con values all different points of view, as long as their purpose is educational, and not hate speech, harassing in purpose, or strictly self-promotional. We don’t, however, “edit” the content because that might considered imposing our point of view over our panelists.
We can’t, like, curate our own convention programming. That would be wrong!
This particular panel was a last minute addition because the program director respects the submitter’s qualifications and scholarship, had an open slot, and wanted a panel on the history of comics. We didn’t think it would be appropriate to deny the panel simply because of his gender.
We didn’t have time to suggest changes! Not that we would have, anyway, because that would be wrong.
Also, the guy running our programming saw nothing wrong with this! In fact, it sounds like he solicited the panel. So it’s totes okay!
After all, we wouldn’t want to be accused of reverse sexism!
This PR guy is slapping together half a dozen different incoherent defenses because the panel is indefensible. No group of men should ever submit a panel on “women in” anything. No programming director should approve such a panel, especially when, again, the foremost expert on the subject, who is a woman, is also a guest at the same convention.
It is okay for the programming committee to suggest to an all-male panel that they modify their slate to include some women, and if the panelists do not agree, it is okay to reject their panel–yes, because of their gender. “Reverse sexism” is impossible, because sexism is systematic, institutional oppression of one sex. (Individual women hating men is misandry, and individuals do not have the power of institutions.) Women, as the oppressed group, do not have the institutional power to oppress men in reverse. That’s how patriarchy works.
So, the institution–in this case, the convention programming committee–should absolutely say, “We’re not going to allow all-male panels, especially on the subject of women.” That’s not sexism; that’s preventing sexism.
Instead, the programming director allowed the panel–or perhaps even solicited it.
Speakers, don’t submit all-male panels to conventions. Most especially do not be a mansplaining jackass by submitting an all-male panel on the subject of women in your industry. Take the pledge not to participate in all-male panels.
Convention organizers, stop perpetuating this sexist bullshit and start curating your programming. This is a fucking disgrace, and no amount of PR spin can make it better.