Harrison's Comics employee Jennifer Williams found out precisely what the "& More" reference means in her new employer's store marquee. Unfortunately she claims when she tried to do something about it, she was promptly fired.
Image Credit: Facebook
An avid comics reader and author, Williams sought employment at the store, located in Salem, Mass., but was only employed for a number of days before her firing.
As described by Raw Story, Williams was given a tour of the store by the manager, only to discover the premises allegedly included a room with the off-putting moniker "Rape Room." Williams spoke up about how the appellation, whether or not it was actually a room used for rape, condones the act or, more broadly, violence against women.
"On Saturday I was given a tour of the store," Williams wrote in a Facebook comment for the page Keep it Klassy, Salem. "The back room was introduced as the rape room ... I said 'That’s not okay.' He replied 'It is if they can’t talk.' Same person (a man) later came up to me and put his arm around me and pulled me to him without provocation or my permission. For the duration of my shifts on Saturday and Sunday I kept silent about it."
Although Williams claims that she acted like a model employee, her concerns were "brushed off" by the owner and, when she returned to work the following Tuesday, was refused entry into the store. "I was not even allowed in the store," she said in the Facbook post. "The guy who made the rape joke blocked my entrance and told me I was fired. I fully admit I could be wrong but this does not seem like a coincidence."
Unwilling to keep silent any longer, Williams then took to Twitter to voice her outrage:
Fyi, Harrison's Comics and Collectibles in Salem MA has a "rape room", dubbed such by the owner's friend Julian who is acting as manager.— Jennifer Williams (@JenWilliams13) September 2, 2014
On Sunday I spoke to the owner about my concerns. I was off yesterday. Today I was fired.— Jennifer Williams (@JenWilliams13) September 2, 2014
I have loved comic books since I was a child. I grew up on X-Men and Swamp Thing. This sort of thing really breaks my heart and spirit.— Jennifer Williams (@JenWilliams13) September 3, 2014
Responding via social media, Harrison Comics at first feigned ignorance, then ambiguously claimed other employees felt Williams "just wouldn't work." On Friday, owner Larry Harrison released a longer statement on Facebook strongly denying the existence of any such room.
Those who have know us for years must realize that we do not condone this behavior.— Harrison's Comics (@HARRISONSCOMICS) September 3, 2014
I was not even aware that she had been let go but according to others it was just that they feel she wouldn't work— Harrison's Comics (@HARRISONSCOMICS) September 3, 2014
Unfortunately, there is no way to prove the incident existed, although according to Williams, police did take a statement about the sexual harassment. But the alleged incident takes on a different kind of significance when examined in the context of the comic book and video game industries. As Mic has noted before, sexism continues to be a major problem in both of these communities, both for the way female characters are depicted, as well as for the way women themselves are treated if they dare to speak up.
Ultimately, as BleedingCool's Rich Johnston noted, whatever the real purpose of the Salem store's room, there is absolutely no reason to describe anything — flippantly or not — in terms that mock or perpetuate rape culture. "I'm going to take a brave and courageous stand here," Johnston wrote, "and say that, whatever is true or not, whatever can be proved or not, that, in general, comic stores should probably avoid describing the room at the back as a 'rape room.' Whether to a rape survivor or not, whether to a woman or not, whether to themselves or not."