Summer Reading: The Big Feminist But and Drama

June 7th, 2013

Today’s summer reading is different ways to look at being a girl and being a woman, drawn by a whole lot of talented artists.

The Big Feminist But, edited by Shannon O’Leary and Joan Reilly, should be required reading for any and all people who ask questions that begin, “Why do feminists…” or “What do Feminists think about…”

As anyone who is a self-identified feminist knows, feminism is “a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. Other than this, there is no over-arching philosophy attached to the word, despite what some people believe.

On the other side of the issue, those women who are aware that women ought to be given equal opportunities often have to face “The Big Feminist But” from younger women who have not had to fight for the opportunities they currently have. “I’m all for equal pay for equal work,” they say,” BUT I’m not a feminist.” What they mean, of course is they aren’t the media-manufactured man-hating, bra-burning Straw Feminist that we all know exists. (Kate Beaton has the Final Word on this with her comic, Straw Feminists in the Closet.) While we all “know they exist,” we rarely actually know one, because they hardly exist except as an object lesson. Yes, in the 70s (40 years ago now) some women burned their bras. Is it important? I’m a self-identified butch lesbian and I shave my legs. Gasp!?  The bottom line is,  if you’re for equal pay for equal work, you are a feminist, even if you don’t realize it.

In The Big Feminist But, in more than 30 stories, male and female comic artists explore the questions posed by life as a woman, as a man in a relationship with a woman, a woman in a relationship with a woman, and all sorts of questions about gender, sex, appearance, achievement, employment, motherhood and anything else that has to do with “Being a woman.” The Big Feminist But began life as a successful Kickstarter and is now available for purchase on Amazon. The list of contributors is too large to list here, but you can see them all on the Kickstarter home page

The main thing I am left with after reading this book is the fact that that there are no answers of any kind to “what do feminists think/do/feel/etc?” Just more questions. This book would be a terrific conversation starter for a woman in your life who was at a crossroads and was feeling perplexed about what she wanted out of life. It might not give her answers, but she’ll know she isn’t alone – and there is power in that.


Raina Telgemeier is, like so many comic artists I have had the pleasure to meet, incredibly nice. And her comics, which reach that practically invisible space of “good stuff for early teens” is approachable and absolutely un-cringe-making in the way so much for tweens unfortunately is.

In Drama, we meet Callie, a middle-school student who is passionate about theater set design, and is a kid I’d have over for lunch any day. Callie’s pursuing her interest with vigor and doing a good job of it and she is determined to make it even better. With the backdrop of the play, she deals with a relationship that isn’t going where she’d like to, followed quickly by another disappointment. As with all school plays, there is more drama behind the scenes than in front of them and not all of it is Callie’s. ^_^

Callie becomes good friends with twin brothers Jesse and Justin. While Justin is comfortably out to himself and to his friends, Jesse is bottling a lot of stuff up inside.  While Callie struggles with getting a special effect for the play to work, she also finds herself falling for Jesse. Until Jesse realizes that he can’t hide who he is, either. Callie suffers another disappointment in love, but is voted in as Stage Director at the end of the year.

What makes Drama so good is that it’s real without being harsh. Callie and her friends say, do and feel what anyone her age might do, say or feel, without any voyeurism, out of place nostalgia or dark grittiness that often takes the place of character development in western comics. What you do get is an – ultimately – pleasant look at middle-school drama. ^_^

If you know a tween girl who likes comic that don’t preach, or condescend, (and who doesn’t want that?) give them Drama and let Raina work her magic. ^_^

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3 Responses

  1. Secret Fanboy says:

    Interesting works, especially the first one piques my interest.

    I think the answer the book gives is correct: there are no easy “feminist” solutions to problems, and there isn’t a single system of thought feminists adhere to. What’s important is to think about the issues and try to gradually improve our faulty system of thought and the way the current society works. That would really benefit men, too.

    By the way, you might be familiar with Anita Sarkeesian already, but in the case you are not, you should give her website a shot. She is a feminist and a pop culture critic who has a video blog presently focusing mostly on games, but there’s quite a lot of stuff about comics(western) and movies too. She’s absolutely brilliant.

    “Conversations with Pop Culture – Feminist analysis of race, gender, class, sexuality and privilege in the media.”

    • I agree completely – there are no easy solutions, feminist or other. There’s just life and that is mostly always messy. ^_^

      I’m a big fan of Sarkeesian’s work. ^_^

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