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Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Sexism in Comics? Certainly Not -The Boys Say So!

Year after year I badgered the Harvey Awards to get more female creators represented on their ballots.  I spent 2010-2014 trying to convince them that Donna Barr and Roberta Gregory deserved some kind of representation on the ballots. 

I know Roberta modestly plays down her achievements in comics and her place in comic history (you read The Hooper Interviews, right?).  And Donna Barr is one of the most creative comic creative talents out there and another person who deserves recognition (again, you read the book?).

But each year it was some stupid excuse after another and how it took a lot of people backing a creator to get them on the awards ballot.


The same people or the latest trendy creator....the usual story.  The Harvey Awards are not a true representation of the creative talents in comics....mainly the "women".  Yes, you know that minority of the creative population that hasn't learnt that they ought to stick to just looking pretty or wear sexy cosplay outfits (if any of what I just wrote in those last two lines strikes you as anything but sarcasm -read again!).

What did I do about this?  I told the Awards people that I had no longer any wish to support any system that was not genuinely equal opportunities.  I'm sorry, but it pisses me off.  I had heavy criticism when, back in the 1980s, I made it clear that Zine Zone as a publication was "female creator biased" because no one was really that interested in what the "girls" thought or did and "If it's not super hero what's the point?" 

When I let people know I had declined to ever take part in the Harvey Awards voting again I actually got shocked responses -"Are you ***** mad? I'd kill to be elligible to vote in that!" and the one gave me more laughs "You are out of your head.  They could make things awkward for you in comics!" I need to point out that the Harvey Awards has never in any way, shape or form (I'm sure that's a double negative) helped or assisted me in comics.

In truth the people at the Awards probably never even gave my email a first let alone second thought.  It's a boys club.

And I think I wrote a long ways back, on the old WordPress CBO and here (somewhere), that Europe, despite the thousands of Bandes Dessinees published each year, was still a mainly male creator enclave!  And it still continues.

I hope that the original poster does not mind me sharing this English language item -you can find it in French and Italian here:

I do not care if some of the female creators do work I do not like personally.  Many produce work I do and I can write the same about male creators.  A comic creator -an artist or writer- can be male or female and I think it's time people woke up to this -especially the Boys Awards!


Since our work is constantly the target of gendered questions when this isn’t so for our male peers, we female comics creators have decided to gather to condemn sexist aspects of this literary field, and to put forward ways to fight them. Our collective regroups more than a hundred women.


Given that « masculine comics » have never been narrowly defined or limited, it is degrading for women authors to be typecast as creating « female comics ». If such a tag stereotypes our work or thought process, then we, female comics creators, don’t recognize ourselves in it. Indeed, as much as our male peers are not obliged to refer to their « masculinity » when they design something, we aren’t obliged to refer to our « femininity ».¹
« Female comics » is not a genre of storytelling. Adventure, science-fiction, thriller, romance, autobiography, humor, history, tragedy are genres of storytelling and women authors master them without having to be reduced to their sex.

To define someone’s taste and ability by their biological sex is a prejudice that isn’t based on reality. Studies in neurobiology and experimental psychology prove that cognitive development is the same for both sexes.²
The word « girly » only reinforces sexist clichés. We refute the idea that talking baking cupcakes or Sales is a « feminine » prerogative. To love shopping and/or soccer is not a sexed feature. Given that « girly » is mostly defined by the futility and/or « sentimentality » of a theme addressed, to decide that such features are « feminine » is misogynistic.

To publish « for-women » collections is misogynistic. It creates polarization and hierarchy within literature, implying that everything that isn’t “for-women” is “for men”. Why should the feminine be outside the scope of what is universal? This sort of distinction, based on stereotypes, leads to nothing but negative effects on women’s self-perception, self-confidence and performance. This also holds true for men, especially if they feel attracted to what the authorities classify as « feminine ». As long as we maintain masculine as the norm and feminine as an inferior aside, children will continue to use terms like « girl » and « homosexual » as pejoratives in schoolyards.
« Feminist » is not an insult. Feminism struggles for women’s equality with men in our societies, being therefore anti-sexism, and we wish to promote literature that is more egalitarian.

We encourage diversity of representation in comics. Authors and protagonist in the book industry ought to give more visibility to women, to diverse family structure, gay parenting, people of color, and socio-ethnic diversity.

We expect institutions, publishers, authors, booksellers, librarians and journalists to assert moral responsibility in the diffusion of narrative material with sexist and, generally speaking, discriminative (homophobic, transphobic, racist, etc) features. We hope to see them promote literature that frees itself from ideology based on gender stereotypes.

We encourage booksellers and librarians not to segregate so-called « for-women » books and books by female authors while organizing displays. The fact that female characters are more present or active than male characters in a book doesn’t mean that boys and men cannot identify with them or enjoy their story.

We hope for authors, publishers and institutions to be attentive to the inner wealth that we all hold in ourselves. There is no hermetic divide inside us between masculine and feminine, except for what society and religions impose. There is inside everyone an endless supply between, around, and beyond these notions of masculine and feminine. This is our strength, and the literature shouldn’t be afraid of it.

1. Since « feminine » and « masculine » are sociocultural conceptions, we won’t pretend to give a partitioned definition to them.
2. See the studies on that topic on the page « liens ».


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