Today is International Women’s Day (if you hadn’t already heard), and I’ve been moping about most of the day trying to figure out what to write about. Doubly so because it’s frankly been a long time since I posted much of substance and I feel pressure to be impressive. But then I realized the two problems were somewhat related.
When I started this blog, it was on a whim, joining the ranks of Tumblr with a bunch of other comics fans I “knew” online. I chose the topic of women comics creators mainly because it was different from all the “women superheroes” blogs that attracted me to Tumblr in the first place, and also because many of my favorite creators happened to be women— the ranks of which have perhaps unsurprisingly grown immensely since then.
Lately I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a “woman comics creator” as both a subset of the group “comics creator” and as a thing unto itself. I know of plenty of creators who embrace the latter, and equally as many who despise the distinction. Where do I stand on all that? It’s hard to say.
On the one hand, to pretend there’s any kind of gender parity in the world of professional cartoonists and comics creators is laughable. And speaking strictly from a business perspective, it obviously comes from the same place as gender disparity in any other industry— these industries were old boys’ clubs for so long and they still haven’t shaken that, even if they’re trying. I feel it at my uber-corporate job, where my immediate manager is a woman, but everyone else up the chain is a man. So on that level, I feel having a forum to discuss and promote women creators is as important as the women employee’s network at the company I work for.
On the other hand, I absolutely reject the idea of women being pigeonholed as “women comics creators”, not to just be thought of as creating “girl books”, and having every pen-stroke judged through the lens of one’s gender.
On top of all that, there’s a little voice that needles at me whenever I think “too hard” about comics that it “doesn’t really matter”. For that little voice, I am grateful to the work of Geena Davis and her Institute on Gender in Media, who work tirelessly to remind us that girls need to see strong images of women in mass media to grow up with a healthy self-image and limitless ambition, and that having women producers of mass media increases those images. (The example I always think about is that Dame Judi Dench became James Bond’s boss when Barbara Broccoli took over as co-producer of the franchise.)
But when I see male critics writing flippant reviews (and oh did I) of Moto Hagio’s Heart of Thomas, failing to note or even recognize her towering reputation (second only to Tezuka in the pantheon of mangaka), and the book’s historical value in the scheme of both the boarding school and boys’ love genres (both immensely popular and seen as “girls’” genres), and criticizing her ‘overly feminine’ art style, I see red. And I remember why I want to focus on women and their artistic achievements.
Damn whatever navel-gazing criticisms I might have of myself, and I respectfully disagree with any women creators who feel that blogs like mine and any all-women projects don’t ultimately do women any favors. Women’s voices are important in every possible sphere, whether they’re talking about “women’s issues” or creating in “girls’ genres” or telling more “universal” stories and reaching for a diverse, more “mainstream” audience (though don’t get me started on the fact that “universal, mainstream” stories are almost always about straight white men), women’s contributions in any media should be valued and encouraged.
And that’s what this blog is all about, Charlie Brown.
(Image: “Every Woman a Wonder Woman” by Lucy Knisley)