Women Make Comics…dammit!

July 26th, 2009

You may remember that, at the end of June, I mentioned that Deb Aoki, editor and writer of manga.about.com, had spearheaded a program to make the point that women and girls not only read and buy, but also make comics, after a particularly bad media backlash about female fans of the Twilight series “invading” San Diego Comic-Con.

There are two entirely different issues being addressed by people writing articles on both sides of this discussion. Most of the women seem to be saying that, Twilight and the fans are not the issue – the issue is the serial dismissal that female comics fans have always gotten from the male fans. Partly because of social and emotional retardation and partly because men simply dis women so unconsciously that when women point it out, we’re being over-sensitive. Male writers seem to be saying that they aren’t dissing “women” in general, just the not “real” fans, the Janie-come-latelys, who they perceive as being only into one thing – obsessed with the mainstream media and not the “real” media (i.e., books or comics.)

I’m not sure either side is really listening to or cares about the other. I’m with Deb – let’s stop the discussion and make the point. Twilight is not the issue. Women who are fans of comic books are “real” fans. They always have been. There are already women in the comics industry, the comics press, the movie industry and, in case you haven’t noticed, in the audience for Iron Man as well as Twilight. I do not care at ALL what you say, no one is ever going to convince me that Robert Downey Jr. is considered to be a hunk. It’s not his abs that convinced people to watch that movie. It was his armor. It was the chance to see Tony Stark, THE Tony Stark, come to life.

Seriously, do you think I was born a manga fan? I have a tremendous collection of early Marvel – because I am older than most of you and was collecting Avengers when those comics were coming out. lol I’m a Marvel girl, the wife collected DC and between us, we have a collection that would make any “real” comics fan cry with envy.
Because we *are* “real” comics fans. As are many women.

So, Deb decided to find a creative, fun and rewarding way to make that statement. She created the “Women Make Comics” project. Which has now launched on Cafepress. To the credit of all the folks involved, there are t-shirts in many colors and sizes, including, I am happy to note, sizes for women which are actually for women.

Proceeds from sales will go to charities such as Friends of Lulu, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art. Because all of those support women in comics and you don’t catch folks at MoCCA bitching about being “invaded” by females. (Or media coverage assuming that women “only” go to MoCCA for some other reason than comics.)

This will not solve the problem. At the very heart of it, there *problem* is that there are just some people who will dis anything women are into precisely because those things appeal to women. I get this all the time, when guys write me telling me – arguing, insisting – that Yuri is not for women and I should butt the hell out. Yes, seriously. Still. Not everyone. Not every guy. But some will, yes.

We need to recognize that there are going to be some genres out there that are not for us – that are not something we like. But that does not mean they are any less valid. OL comics are not for me – but the art is not deficient just because I find the content repulsive. Nor are “girl’s” comics any less sophisticated than “boy’s”. I’ll put Yazawa Ai (who I do not like) up against Alex Robinson (who I also do not like) any day. Hands down, Yazawa wins as the better technical artist. So, which is more of a valid art form? Neither. Both are art.

Look around pictures of SDCC, of Otakon, of Nascar for pity’s sake. Look at the wonderful, diverse mix of people. Ages, genders, ethnicity.

The real point here is that women and comics are already established law. There is no conversation to be had about what, if any, our place is in the field. We’re here, we’ve been here, we will be here.

Let’s take a deep breath, wear our Women Make Comics t-shirts proudly, and know that with every step forward that we take, we’re still trailblazing through this wilderness of fandom. :-)

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9 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    “I do not care at ALL what you say, no one is ever going to convince me that Robert Downey Jr. is considered to be a hunk.”

    Because you’re a lesbian anyway, right?

  2. @Anonymous. Yes. *That’s* why.

  3. Cryssoberyl says:

    Great post, although I’ll never stop being astounded that people need to be told these things that seem so obvious and self-evident.

    guys write me telling me – arguing, insisting – that Yuri is not for women and I should butt the hell out.

    WTF? Just WTF…

  4. Katherine says:

    The people who believe in all-male nerd-fandoms are hilariously delusional. I’ve almost exclusively been involved in the anime and manga fandoms (although I’m open to reading non-Japanese comics), and they’ve always seemed (to me) to be 50-50. Heck, the anime clubs that I belonged to in middle school and high school were almost entirely female (not for any particular reason), and the cons I’ve been to have had an even mix of both genders, so it never struck me that it was supposed to be a boys’ club. (Even though in the past year I’ve posted onto a couple of forums where the other forum-users thought that I was a guy pretending to be a girl, because obviously women don’t use the internet.) Thanks for spreading the word about the “Women Make Comics” project! :) I’ll definitely support it.

    And to the idiots who believe that Yuri isn’t for women- see Shiroi Heya no Futari (first Yuri manga ever), Oniisama E, Utena, Marimite, (arguably) Aoi Hana (runs in a magazine aimed at both genders, but everybody I knows who’s seen it considers it a “chick show”), the plethora of Yuri Hime titles, and plenty more for those who bother looking.

  5. @Katherine – Anime/manga hasn’t had the same boy’s club atmosphere since the very, very early days when Dirty Pair, Devil Hunter Yohko and La Blue Girl were the only “anime” one would find on the shelves of a video store. so if you’ve never been the only girl in a comic shop, one of a few women at an event, you haven’t really seen what it used to be like. American comics were a mostly-guy world for a long time. Even when there were women there, we were few and far between. (I worked at a comic store in 1985, I could tell you stories!)

    If you’re relatively new to comic, manga, gaming, etc, you’ve come at a time when, yes, it is now about 50/50. ten years ago that simply wasn’t the case.

    And to the point you’re making about Yuri manga – many of those people who argue that women should butt out of Yuri would legitimately make the point that those series you mention are *not* Yuri – they are shoujo (or what we might call now josei.) Yuri was preempted almost immediately after the phrase Yurizoku was coined to mean “porn for guys.”

    One of the reasons I chose “Yuri” was to reclaim it for the lesbians. :-) only want that to mean porn.

  6. Thanks for an insightful post, Erika! Let’s hope that female fandom is less of an issue at next year’s SDCC.

    And Anonymous, there are plenty of straight women (myself included) who are immune to Robert Downey Jr.’s charms as well.

  7. Katherine says:

    @ Erica- Thanks for the insights! Even though I know that the anime/manga fandom has evolved, I didn’t really appreciate how much progress has been made (while plenty has yet to be made), as well as the dramatic difference between the fandoms. And I wasn’t aware that some people don’t consider shoujo Yuri to really be “Yuri.” (If the people who believe that truly feel confident in their myopic definition of “Yuri”, they wouldn’t be writing you those idiotic messages.) Thanks for all of the progress you’ve spearheaded (along with numerous other people involved in making and promoting Yuri, like Akiko Morishima) in re-claiming the term. :)

  8. Anonymous says:

    I guess the people making Yuri hime would be very surprised to hear that their Yuri isn’t real Yuri, or that their audience largely doesn’t get what Yuri should be XD

    I usually point Yuri Hime out to the guys whining that Yuri isn’t for me. For some reason, they tend to shut up quickly.

    But aside that, good post. Women do read comics – we just were marginalized for ages. And still are, sadly. Changes happen only ever so slowly.

  9. moritheil says:

    It’s some of the most inverted, bizarre, reflexive, self-defeating stuff ever – rather than actually take the time to connect with women, guys will resent female intrusion into what they believe to be “their” space.

    Sadly, I’ve seen it too often to not believe it.

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