The Girl in Black

Se necesita una poca de gracia.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

"Feminism" yet again...

I put that word in quotes because all at the same time I find it both limiting and empowering. But anyway...

Thanks to Scott McCloud's LJ feed I read about a recent sexual harassment issue in the comics industry. He chose to link to a thoughtful summation of the discussions that followed, rather than any news itself, and I find that somewhat interesting.

Heidi MacDonald links to many takes on women in comics, and women's portrayal in comics, and the outrage and disillusionment therein. She makes comments on it, but then she takes it to a much larger scale and makes the valid point that it's not just an industry specific problem, but an underlying societal problem.

Still, I wonder how productive it is to disperse a group's focused outrage and spread it out over the whole of modern culture?

The problem is indeed overwhelming, and it's gone underground.

"I've been reading a lot lately about the 'failures' of feminism. A New York Times article on women who got a top-notch education just so they could to be homemakers raised many questions, including this long round-up that suggests that in some ways, women are going backwards. Maureen Dowd actually has a point, I fear."

The "long round-up" is a link to a column by Linda Hirshman about how many well-educated women are making a choice to be a mother rather than a professional. It touches on a lot of things that I look at and shudder in my own life, and ultimately feel bad for. All the girls I know who are around my age who are married and/or have children. Something about them, what they bothers me. Something about any woman my age who has a child bothers me. "I'm too young to have children!" I think to myself. And yet, my "childbearing years" are getting into full swing.

But MacDonald's linking is a blessing and a curse to me. On the one hand, Hirshman's column is important. It has outlined in sharper detail some of the things that have been bothering me about being a woman lately. But it also distracts me from thinking about the apparent lack of respect for women in comics.

But even that apparent lack is something I've not witnessed firsthand. The closest I have come is reading a book by Dave Sim that rants and rails against women and portrays them as evil things who eat the brains of men. It disgusted me, filled me with rage, made me question the motives of my male friends who enjoyed Sim's work after having read the book in question. But I never met the man in person.

I could use the example of my college professors' advice when I mentioned that I wanted to put together an anthology of female sequential work. They suggested that asserting myself and others as "women in comics" made us just that, "women in comics" not cartoonists devoid of any special treatment due to gender. In a way it made sense. I didn't want to be a "woman cartoonist" I wanted to be a "cartoonist that is a woman." And despite my current lack of productivity, that's still how I see it. I don't want to be a "woman doing something" I want to be a "person doing something."

But thinking on it, their argument diluted mine. I gave up on asserting myself through my gender, and that is a very fine line to walk. If I assert my "minority" status too much I risk being a zealot. But if I don't stand up for what's right, I risk losing all respect from my peers.
The internal argument became too much for me, and I got down off of that specific soapbox.

And now I must ask again, by taking a specific problem and widening it to encompass more than the initial focus, will these injustices get the attention they deserve? Or is this a holistic problem that must be attacked from all angles?

The war for my individuality is still being waged from without and within...


  • At 1:50 AM, Blogger Heidi MacDonald said…

    Found this post through my Technorati A great, thoeghtful post. I think we need to do BOTH. Think globally act locally. But you cannot separate an action from its context, at least to me.

    We all have to ask these questions. But I'm beginning to understand, for me, that getting bogged down in them is part of the problem. --Heidi

  • At 5:53 AM, Blogger Ragnell said…

    You've got a beautiful point there. Particularly when you take into account that one of the never-fail questions when you are the only girl in the comic book store is "How do we get more women to read comics?" as if all women will be attracted to the same stuff.

    I've always heard that female humans actually outnumber the males on this planet. We're the majority. We come from different ethnicities, countries, religions, neighborhoods, careers. We have wildly varying appearances, inclinations, interests and opinions.

    And yet, so often, this immense group is lumped together as the "minority" group known as "Women."

  • At 1:35 PM, Blogger The Fabulous Miss Rose said…

    Hey cool! Technorati works! :-D

    That's true, Heidi, you can't separate an action from its context. It's just difficult for me to act when I'm staring at the entirety of the context instead of a specific action/incident. Oftentimes I'm left scratching my head wondering what exactly I'm supposed to do. But I suppose I can work on my thinking globally acting locally skills. :-)

    Ah yes, Ragnell, you see, "women" aren't really "people." We're just pets for men to play with. ;-)

    Heh, I remember once in college we had a panel discussion with a group of respected comics editors and artists known in the field. The lone female on the panel was an inker for mainstream comics (her specialty was nifty tech stuff I think), and an earnest young man asked her "So, as a woman, what do you bring to the table?" She stared at him for a moment, probably a little stunned, and said "Well... breasts!"

    Duh! :-P

  • At 12:06 AM, Anonymous tekanji said…

    I have to respectfully disagree with you about Hirshman's article. I could see what she said being important if she hadn't based her entire argument on data that has been shown to be invalid, and if she hadn't blamed women for our oppression (if we only did things her way then we'd be "equal", too bad if you don't like what she does). If your interested in some dissent, I recommend going through some of the links here.

    I'm with Heidi on the "think globally act locally" thing; striving for equality is something that needs to be approached by multiple angles. I think it's also important to both recognize the importance of one individual voice while understanding that it is one of many, and all deserve their happiness as long as it doesn't put undue stress on others. At least that's how I approach these sorts of things.

  • At 10:34 AM, Blogger Elayne said…

    I agree with Heidi and ragnell, Rose - a very good post. I think it's extremely productive to link what's going on in one industry and extrapolate it to the culture at large, because I believe it's important for people (particularly men, who don't need to think about these things the way we do because they're not subjected to our experiences) to make these connections in order to feel more empowered. If it's just coming from the view of a woman gamer or comics reader or rock fan or blogger, it's too easy to feel like the problem only seems to be in your hobby and perhaps you're just seeing things askew since they don't seem to affect anyone else. It's as Heidi says, you need to think globally (realize that women are dealing with instutitionalized sexism in many industries and many hobbies) but act locally (we nede to concentrate on our hobby of choice or we wind up spreading ourselves too thin and being too exhausted to effect change).

    Also, I'd take that Hirshman column with huge piles of salt. The feminist blogosphere has doen some very good essays on how it's rather self-selecting and has the ulterior-motive effect of making women question choices rather than of actually informing readers.

  • At 10:35 AM, Blogger Elayne said…

    Oh, and I'd submit this article to the next Carnival of Feminists if I were you.


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