Don’t Make Me Come Back There: A Whinge

Non-UK folk probably missed the spat on Twitter a couple of weeks back simply because you were all in bed when in it happened. I only noticed it because it spilled out into real life non-internet arguments that ruined my lunch. It was about how the British Comics Awards were supposedly sexist – an accusation later written up by Laura Sneddon (last mentioned on TCJ as “[Grant] Morrison hagiographer” by Abhay Khosla, who is hilarious) in a New Statesman piece called Where Were All the Women in the British Comics Awards? My totally uncalled-for response (this one, this thing you are reading) should have come out soon after instead of after everybody calmed down and forgot about it. But! But. I did write it then, only I sounded like a drunk person ranting, which of course I was. So I’ve picked it up again, wiped off the crisp crumbs and puddles of spilled lager and what I think I was trying to say was twofold: i. that the British comics industry (in particular) will whinge (an English, whinier version of whine) itself out of existence, and ii. that WOMEN IN COMICS (campaigners, agenda-ers) are ruining it for women in comics. Hey wait, come back. Let me bend your ear a second.

My Beef, The First: I Will Turn This Car Around And We Will Go Back Home. Cartoonists are among the best, most cynical whiners on the planet and I needn’t list the dozens who have made a career out of it. But lately (and yes, mostly over Twitter) a lot of them have been kicking themselves in the balls. Exhibit A, a thing I have mentioned before: McSweeney’s Internet Tendency set up a contest to win a corner of their website for monthly webcomic. I don’t draw comics and I don’t write them so I had no use for this thing at all, but I was glad to see my comics pals being given an in because McSweeney’s had already published one of my written things and I have never had more exposure than that one stupid open letter to the guy waiting in the corner of the comic bookshop. An editor at DC Comics emailed me the next day asking if I’d like to pitch him some ideas. I didn’t, but if I was someone who was looking for that kind of door to open that would have been a pretty good payment for a thing I wrote for free one afternoon just because I felt like it and wanted to put this information about Green Lantern rings I have somehow accumulated somewhere that wasn’t my head. The McSweeney’s comic competition was a paying gig – a very tiny, token barely-there amount of money (something like 20 bucks a page) but that that wasn’t the point. You – anyone, some tiny unknown bedroom comics artist – could have a thing on McSweeney’s and have some dude at DC maybe, possibly, see it. People get into comics in strange and unlikely ways, there’s no reason it couldn’t be that way. The piece didn’t even have to be a new thing – it didn’t even have to conform to a theme, it could be a thing you did years ago, dug out of the bottom drawer. The competition stipulated only this: Anything you want. I would find it for you and link you to it, but: Comics people (I mean the vocal ones on the internet, the ones hunched over a drawing board probably missed the whole thing) whined about the money and the maltreatment and the disrespect, and they whined so hard that McSweeney’s cancelled the whole idea, kicked comics out of the car, and comics had to walk home by themselves.I’m not saying it was just Britain, but I am saying it was largely Britain. If I have simply been asleep while the Americans are being just as bad, by all means tell me. I would like to believe it is not just one rainy little island feeling sorry for themselves.Exhibit B: In the New Statesman this week Alex Hern curated a whole five days of online pieces about British comics – the history, the people, the work – highlighting new stuff and giving a push to new, young cartoonists. I wrote a bit that explained to regular civilians why everyone was banging on about British comics so much in their (generally political) current affairs website, which was a very condensed version of events from 1977 up till now. It was true enough and simple enough for people who largely don’t care about/read comics. As soon as a story about Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie went up – after a week of stories highlighting successes in England – British comics people on Twitter started saying how disappointing it is that Gillen and McKelvie’s success at Marvel was held up to be the pinnacle of success – that work in America was still, sadly, thing to reach for. But it wasn’t. It was just another in a line of varied stories about British people making comics (and their various career trajectories) followed by another bout of British people whining for no goddamn reason. Although these sorts of things are written to promote discussion, comics people are coming across as such hard work that it’s easier just to not say anything at all.

My Beef, The Second – The One I Am Only Allowed To Voice Because I Have a Pair Of Tits Attached To My Body. So Sneddon’s piece went up at the New Statesman about the British Comic Awards, a thing set up to replace the now largely ignored Eagle Awards which tend to acknowledge only US creators and big US publishers (Hi, America, you are the baddies this week). In it Sneddon talked about how small press person Phillipa Rice had said in an interview with Forbidden Planet International that there weren’t enough women nominated for awards, and then Sneddon recounted the so-called Twitter backlash that followed which “effectively silenced” Rice. Sneddon says the response to her own article was so abusive that she has effectively silenced herself by locking her Twitter and saying she’s never going to write about indie comics again, yada yada yada. So Freakangels artist Paul Duffield, who was at the awards, went in and did a mathematical breakdown (!) of genders in order to set the record straight: “So far the awards seem not only representative when it comes to gender, but actually a little progressive.” These shrill cries of Won’t somebody think of the [women]! and labelling things as sexist (until they are mathematically (!) proven otherwise) thoroughly undermine and dilute the stuff that is actually sexist. [Sub-Beef: Why, when women are challenged on the internet by something they said do so many run away and hide? I'm not talking about the cases of scary harassment or stalky dudes. I've seen people flee not because of threat but discussion and disagreement. If you stick your arse out, someone's going to kick it. Always. Don’t hide. Come back, get angry.]

My problem with the whole Women In Comics thing is, and let me state this bluntly, not women in comics. Women do great comics. Men do great comics. Women do some absolutely terrible comics, and so do men. End of disclaimer. My problem is the ghettos women build for themselves. A badly-designed women-only anthology is nothing but a childish reaction to the No Girls Allowed sign hanging on the tree-house door. Need an example? Pick any you like. They are uniformly awful because of the very thing that they are saying: they aim for some sort of equality (“don’t treat us differently, we are cartoonists too”) and miss the target by fencing themselves off (“we are different”). It’s self-defeating. Put everything together in a big heap and we will decide what’s good or not based on words and pictures, not gender.A women-only anthology is in no way empowering. It is not helping. It’s actually kind of embarrassing and completely old-fashioned. In the 1970s/1980s there was a need for Wimmin’s Comix and Diane Noomin and Aline Kominsky’s Twisted Sisters, but there isn’t now. The latter, while still being a women-only anthology, outgrew the particular brand of feminist bullshit I have problems with. Says Noomin:

“…the Wimmin’s Comix Collective took the path that many women’s or political collectives do over the years and became a hot-bed of bickering and power plays. Aline and I found ourselves on one side of a power play and we decided. “Well, fuck you, we’ll do our own comic.” Basically, we felt that our type of humor was self-deprecating and ironic and that what they were pushing for in the name of feminism and political correctness was a sort of self-aggrandizing and idealistic view of women as a super-race.” That kind of bluntness was required, initially, when people needed to be shocked into listening. But now the idea of girls vs. boys is nothing but backward. That isn’t to say women-only anthologies still pedal that kind of super-race nonsense, but making it a women-only thing pits “us” against “them”. We do not need teams. Readers should be far beyond the point where we take into consideration what hole the cartoonist pees out of. Who cares. It’s all comics.

As for the awards, here is the thing that nobody (but Paul Duffield, sort of) mentions: you cannot have a perfectly gender balanced awards system unless you have a men’s award and a women’s award. Like the Oscars, or whatever. But that is another shitty ghetto nobody wants to be in and awards ceremonies are boring enough without more categories to get through before the after-party. It will always be unbalanced, because I believe (and I do, I really do) that nominations are based on the work, and not penises or vaginas. It is wholly ridiculous to come in whining that nobody gave your vagina an award. So my point, basically, is a simple one: don’t turn up dressed for battle every day because sometimes there isn’t one. You look stupid in that outfit.




77 Responses to Don’t Make Me Come Back There: A Whinge

  1. Briany Najar says:

    Whenever I hear about something somebody said on Twitter it’s always a load of slander and bile.
    The comment sections on the New Statesmen articles themselves seemed generally positive in tone.
    It is a bit odd that they treated 1977 (i.e. 2000AD) as the dawn of British comics, but maybe the longstanding vernacular existing prior to that just isn’t the easiest subject to research these days – plus the frivolous humour of it is probably too far away from the current fashion for more ruminative, doleful or pastoral experiences (alongside the ubiquitous violent fantasy stuff that nearly always has some “thought-provoking” qualifier attached).
    Am I whinging yet?

  2. Jim S says:

    You say in your article that:

    “that the British comics industry (in particular) will whinge (an English, whinier version of whine) itself out of existence”

    I think your article is actually very good evidence of this. The industry in the US seems to take criticism and respond to it, either by taking it on-board or by refuting it. The industry in the UK seems to respond to criticism by going after the individual that made it rather than arguing the point one way or the other.

    This was obvious in this case both by the reaction of people to the original comments from Philippa Rice and the article that was published on the New Statesman. People didn’t respond professionally to the argument, they let rip on the people who highlighted the issue, Sneddon even went so far as to say that it was a “perceived issue” and people still went after her personally on twitter (after seeing how doing the same thing with Philippa caused the problem in the first place why they thought doing it to someone who writes for the national press would stop things escalating boggles the mind).

    I think this stems in a large part from the US industry having people who are focused on PR and the UK industry being a bit more indie/amateur in this regard.

    The UK industry is cliquey and if you say or do anything to anger certain people you will be torn to shreds, look at the number of people who are scared to say anything against Mark Millar because of his involvement with the press or Alan Moore for fear of incurring his wrath.

    It’s the difference between me responding to your article as I have and me sifting through everything you’ve ever written or published or said and attacking you personally here and on twitter etc. trying to discredit you as person rather than responding to the argument you are making here.

    It’s also just crazy how the industry and commentators in the UK are desperate to show themselves in a bad light. When things like this crop up why do people stir up so much fuss?! If people hadn’t gone mad after the first article it would have gone quiet pretty quick. If places like this didn’t bring these things back up weeks after they had gone quiet…. all I can say is that to anyone outside the industry it just re-enforces the belief that the comics industry is a small anti-social cliquey group.

    It’s very strange.

  3. Jayhawh says:

    This might not even be related, but I think the best place right now for women to do comics is on the web.

    Easiest place I can remember all the female woman ladies that do comics that I read is webcomics, Hark a Vagrant and Awkward Zombie. And Doctor Cat, and Moonlighting, and Cat and Girl. I think also Platinum Grit.

    In “regular comics” I know there’s Gail Simone and Amanda Conner and that’s it.

    Need to make web comics more money relevant to match the social relevant. Somehow, maybe by magic. Then Muddy Waters’ corpse can cash a million dollar check he gets from Led Zeppelin and blah bloo blee fuck tha whole world

  4. Briany Najar says:

    “[...] look at the number of people who are scared to say anything against Mark Millar because of his involvement with the press or Alan Moore for fear of incurring his wrath.”

    OK, but… How does one inform oneself of that number of people?
    Is there a register?

  5. Briany Najar says:

    (that was in response to Jim S)

  6. DaveB says:

    Nice article. I’m generally not familiar with the awards you mention or even the initial hubbub, I just wanted to say that while there is definitely a need for separate mens and womens categories in some situations (writing your name in the snow competitions for example) comics are definitely a level playing field in terms of slapping your talent on the page and getting it out there. There are some legitimate concerns about the M/F ratio of creative types at the larger publishers, but in terms of indi and web comics, you are your talent.

  7. fdsf says:

    “The McSweeney’s comic competition was a paying gig – a very tiny, token barely-there amount of money (something like 20 bucks a page) but that that wasn’t the point.”

    It’s not a paying gig for everyone who might’ve produced a new piece of McSweeney’s and gotten rejected. Also, the pay rate is garbage. The McSweeney’s column contest pays about US $.50 a word, which is a mediocre but not laughable rate. $20 a page is an absolutely insulting rate for any comics artist.

    “The piece didn’t even have to be a new thing – it didn’t even have to conform to a theme, it could be a thing you did years ago, dug out of the bottom drawer.”

    Inaccurate and misleading. The rules stipulated that it had to be previously unpublished. Comics artists in the need of exposure and employment are not in the habit of drawing whole comics, of a quality that’s worth publishing, and shoving them in a drawer instead of posting them on their website or tumblr or what-have-you – they self-publish, because they need the damn exposure. It’s absurd to think that talented comics artists have wonderful unpublished pieces that they haven’t been able to get out there AT ALL – that have been languishing in their proverbial drawers – because they don’t have the angelic hand of McSweeney’s lifting them up into visibility.

    By the way, if you’re “only allowed to voice” your opinion about the sexism issue because you “have a pair of tits”, then your opinion about what is and isn’t demeaning to comics artists is garbage, unless you had an actual comics creator ghostwrite that part for you.

    “I believe (and I do, I really do) that nominations are based on the work”

    Blankly stating that an institution accused of sexism is a meritocracy, and therefore any gender bias seen is due to the differing merit of the men and women involved, is a classic defense of sexist systems. That you would trot this out as if it were obvious fact, and not a harmful sexist idiom, belies your ignorance of how sexism is reinforced, and your unwillingness to actually consider the feminist argument.

  8. Jayhawh says:

    I forgot Fiona Staples on here. Never mind all of my comment.

  9. Sam Henderson says:

    I think the McSweeney’s thing was not that they didn’t pay as much or that work was on spec, but I think the problem was that they owned the pitch. I’ll take that back if I’m wrong.

    I agree separating comics by gender may be self-defeating and that cartoonists are cartoonists, though being a peno-American that’s not my decision to make. I am against tokenism though. Whenever there’s a retrospective or panel, someone will question the lack of women as if it was from the lack of trying or that if a woman were included then they’d represent all women. I’m always hearing the names Trina Robbins, Marie Severin, and Dale Messick used as examples and if someone thinks they’re on a par with Crumb, Kirby, or Schulz, that’s tokenism.

  10. Kim Thompson says:

    “By the way, if you’re ‘only allowed to voice’ your opinion about the sexism issue because you ‘have a pair of tits’, then your opinion about what is and isn’t demeaning to comics artists is garbage, unless you had an actual comics creator ghostwrite that part for you.”

    I think Hayley’s point is that any time the charge of sexism is leveled at an institution, if a man attempts to argue the point and defend the institution, he is, completely regardless of the merits of the case or his argument, shouted down as a sexist, a misogynist, or a hapless stooge to sexism and misogyny. A woman making the same arguments traditionally has an advantage here… although thanks to social progress, apparently, this advantage is diminishing and the gender-secret “fdsf” (an ad-hoc pseudonym apparently created by angrily and randomly stabbing at the left side of his or her keyboard a few times?) can call a woman to task for her “ignorance of how sexism is reinforced” and her “unwillingness to actually consider the feminist argument.” If “fdsf” is a man that’s kind of hilarious, and if “fdsf” is a woman, maybe a little sad.

  11. SB says:

    Sexism, much like racism, isn’t going to just go away if everyone stops talking about it. This article is deeply flawed.

  12. Kim Thompson says:

    Actually, I’m sure everyone has his or her own more or less loopy favorites: I’d argue fairly seriously that we published no greater cartoonist than Raymond Macherot last year, for instance. (Okay, behind Schulz.) So thinking Dale Messick is on a par with, or better than, Jack Kirby isn’t necessarily tokenism per se.

    Of course, if your ENTIRE list of unjustly neglected or undervalued cartoonists belongs to one gender or race, you begin to venture into token territory.

  13. Tony says:

    You mean only last year, not in the whole history of FB?

  14. Kim Thompson says:

    Yes. And OK (I say this to avoid an avalanche of argumentative follow-up questions), when I say “fairly” seriously I also mean “not entirely” seriously. My broader point is that I expect everyone has at least one cartoonist he or she would put in his or her absolute top tier that most everyone else would be baffled by. The trick is not to take it personally, or seek out a sinister underlying reason like sexism, when others disagree.

    To be honest, Macherot is only my fourth favorite Belgian cartoonist, but we didn’t publish #1, #2, or #3 in 2012. (As it happens we will publish #1, #2, and #3 in 2013.)

  15. Hollie says:

    Don’t come dressed for battle girls, but don’t hide from battle, and don’t make women only anthologies, but if you want an award to be fair it will have to be women only. And don’t complain, don’t be shrill. Sexism doesn’t exist any more 20% is PROGRESSIVE get over it.

    20% is actually WAY TOO HIGH compared to the percentage of comics by British women put out by Nobrow and Blank Slate (the UK indie comics publishers) in the last year: 0%

    If it’s only the work of men that comes to our attention it’s probably because women are too busy putting together their embarrassing anthologies. Stop whining about it girls it’s your own fault.

  16. michael L says:

    yikes! “post-feminist” politics, don quixote mic-drop, conspicuous britishness; this column is like the perfect storm of things that bug me in comics criticism.

  17. Briany Najar says:

    Nelson (Best Book in the British Comic Awards), published by Blank Slate, has a whole bunch of female cartoonists’ work in it. A dozen, at least. Not nearly as many women as men, but certainly more than none.
    Speaking of the BCA, I’d say Karrie Franzman should have easily made the shortlist. By the looks of things the committee & judges were focussed on work of a rather more aesthetically conservative nature though. Perhaps that’s just because it’s the first year and they wanted to play it “safe”? I dunno – but there is plenty more artistically adventurous stuff out there than you’d think from looking at those nominations.
    Hmm, I’ve just started looking forward to the year ahead, could be interesting. Er… that is, of course, if there even is a year ahead. (hedging bets so as to not look foolish if world ends)

  18. Tony says:

    No need to play it coy in the amazon age…

    1 – Hergé (Peppy & Virginny)
    2 – Franquin (Last Laugh)
    3 – Tillieux (Gil Jordan 2)

  19. Briany Najar says:

    What else do you think?
    Do you mind if I put you in a display cabinet?

  20. Cole Schenley says:

    It can’t be that controversial to want to see more women represented in retrospectives or panels, can it? Shit, it’s not just women, it’s people of color, gays, the whole PC fucking rainbow. Because their stories just haven’t been told enough. It’s not about meeting some quota like Duffield was going on about, it’s about giving space to more than just the same 20 or 30 white dude cartoonists. And I probably love every one of those white dudes, and get excited when they put a new book out, but there can always be more scholarship that gives a shine to voices that aren’t nearly heard enough of. I think it’d be great if there were more books about the Wimmen’s Comix Collective,the Year 24 group, or say Posy Simmonds (just as examples). I really don’t think it’s tokenism to prefer Trina Robbins over Crumb, it seems like a matter of individual taste (as much as I might not personally agree with that preference).

  21. Martin Wisse says:

    It will always be unbalanced, because I believe (and I do, I really do) that nominations are based on the work, and not penises or vaginas.

    Yeah, not actually true, though, now is it? Plenty of crap has been nominated for other reasons over the years and really the notion of systemic bias in this day and age, where awards are dominated by male rather than female cartoonists because at every stage of comics production male cartoonists get more attention than female ones, really shouldn’t be new anymore.

    Yes, sometimes you even have to do quotas or projects that highlight underrepresented groups, even if it is old fashioned.

  22. Luke Pearson says:

    It’s important that people can raise these issues freely, whether they’re mathematically proven or not. It’s equally important that people can take criticism professionally and respond to it in a non vitriolic or belittling manner.

    The overly personal knee-jerk response to “small press person” Philippa Rice’s initial comment and the disproportionate amount of scorn aimed at Laura Sneddon herself in the wake of her article are presumably exactly the kind of thing that would dissuade a person from voicing a perfectly valid and honest personal opinion on this topic. I feel that a flippant article like this is just a final little kick in the ribs to show what happens when you have the balls (or vagina/fallopian tubes etc) to actually voice it.

    Philippa’s original observation stands. The boy to girl ratio is not great, whether you deem it ‘progressive’ or not. It’s not rash or out of line to suggest that this could maybe be better.

  23. michael L says:

    no just let my whinging stew here with the rest

  24. “The industry in the US seems to take criticism and respond to it, either by taking it on-board or by refuting it. The industry in the UK seems to respond to criticism by going after the individual that made it rather than arguing the point one way or the other.”

    Um, I think that needs a bit of qualification. Because it is, quite frankly, balls.

  25. You could be right about the McSweeney’s thing, Sam. From where I was sitting I could only see people taking umbrage with the pay rate but there could have been more to it.

    [Unrelated sidenote just because it sprung to mind: I loved your piece on overlooked comedies in The Lowbrow Reader. I miss that wee magazine.]

  26. Briany Najar says:

    Actually, I’d rather such bigotry was prevented from “stewing” and isolated as an eccentric curiosity.

  27. bobsy says:

    I’m Caitlin Moran and I endorse this wank!

    I mean, I endorse this article!

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  29. michael L says:

    is this what ur envisioning:
    “Hey, what’s in that cabinet? Looks like a fellow who publicly expressed his chagrin at the social regression of the comics community. What an eccentric bigot!”

  30. Briany Najar says:

    So, social regression is characterised by: post-feminist politics; any allusion to Don Quixote’s windmill-leaning; and being British to the extent that someone might notice? Is that right?
    Certainly sounds like eccentric bigotry to me.
    I mean, you can have the Don Quixote thing, obviously, but your reaction to the other two is bigoted by definition. You can have your bigotry as well, but do hold your arms in and exhale, as I’m afraid the cabinet is a little narrow.

  31. michael L says:

    the british thing was a joke, and more a reaction against the Phonogram mention than anything else. that comic weirdly emphasizes its own britishness — or, if i may synthesize a more accurate, Barthesian term, “britishicity” (a deformed, reductive simplification of some nebulous british identity, useful in marketing or satire) — and such a nationalistic emphasis is weird when you’re only showing nerdy white well-to-do folks who are obsessed with a certain sect of british pop and fashion. what i mean by “conspicuous britishness” could be more accurately described as “the cartoonish catachresis of the british image.” anyway, it was more of an offhand comment on the tail of a much more serious issue:

    from wikipedia:
    “Post-feminism [...] generally connotes the belief that feminism has succeeded in its goal of ameliorating sexism.” I think any sort of allegiance with that sentiment is either sexist or just rhetorically ignorant. I’m not sure why you’re calling me a bigot while defending an ideology that is inherently bigoted.

  32. Iain Cree says:

    The moral of this story is, if you have a set of awards specifically designed to give special treatment to UK comics creators and no one even thinks twice about it. But suggest that those awards should do more to be inclusive of women and everybody loses their fucking mind.

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  34. As a Union certified whinger I’m always down for a bit of complaining about complaining, and the fact that the basic irony of this position is acknowledged in the title of this piece makes for a nice little sweetener for a huffy prick like me. And yet, I have quibbles. Complaints. Grumps. Grudges. I am annoyed, and so I feel an overpowering need to whine about your anti-whine whining. To make matters worse, my complaints are so numerous that I am going to have to make a list of them. Numerically. With numbers. So:

    (1) Being a Union appointed whinger, my gut reaction to the bit where you’re like “if you lot had been grateful for the opportunity to sniff Dave Eggers’ stale farts you might have got wind of Dan Didio’s fresh ones later” is just to shout the word “SCCAAAAAAAAAAAAAB!” and be done with it. I mean, I can appreciate the practicality of your position, and wouldn’t genuinely grudge a young artist for taking this sort of opportunity if it suited them to do so, but I think that portraying McSweeny’s as beleaguered victims of the craziness of the BritComics types here is a bit squiffy and, you know, wrong. Especially if Sam is correct and McSweeny’s were going to gain ownership of the submissions. What can I say, despite many assurances from the world outside of comics that working for nothing (or for a less than reasonable rate) is just fine and dandy, I can’t seem to get comfortable with the idea.

    (2) I’m not confident enough in my overview of the current British comics scene to say for sure, but the idea that sexism is obviously not a problem because 25% of the nominees had lady-bits seems a bit glib and unconvincing to me. You might well be right that the nominees were all chosen on merit alone – like I said, I can’t pretend to be an authority on this point, and Paul Duffield’s analysis is definitely worth reading – but I still don’t think that it’s inherently ridiculous for someone to suggest that this ratio might not represent the number of talented, non-male cartoonists in the UK.

    (3) Which brings me to the bit about not needing teams, of girls, making comics so that we can side with them. Your perception of the quaintness of such projects is reliant on your assessment that it’s no longer necessary to shout about WOMEN IN COMICS, so it follows that if it’s not necessarily crazy to think that maybe comics haven’t achieved a state of Purest Meritocracy, then maybe it’s not entirely worthless for some ladies to try and kick against the pricks. The all grrrrl anthologies I’ve read have generally been every bit as wonky and uneven as most of the more phallocentric collections I’m used to encountering (with exceptions on both sides, natch), but maybe you have lot of screamingly awful girlycomix down in That London that don’t make it all the way to Scorchland, I don’t know. It’s a bit damp up here, so possibly these comics turn to streaky mulch before I get to read them or something.

    (4) I’ve not quite sorted out my reaction to the “ladies, grow thicker skin and stop wearing your armour to work every day” part of your argument – unlike some of the other commentors, I don’t think it’s inherently contradictory, but it still gives me FEELINGS. I mean, if I was Laura Sneddon and I saw that you were starting this piece by referencing the time that the ever-entertaining Abhay Khosla gave me a bit of a kicking, I’d probably think “Fuck me, TCJ’s getting a bit crotchy these days – time tae bore them tae fuck in the comments!” But then again some of my best friends are crotches, and I’m a cast iron arsehole, so… there’s an obvious conclusion to this sentence that I find myself unwilling to write right now because this comment is being written before the watershed.

    Anyway, while I’d be happy to scrap it out with chops like Abhay and yourself at TCJ dot com, and while you and your pals seem to have got into the spirit of the bizarre twitter playground full of bogey flicking, hair pulling and name calling that this post has brought into being, I couldn’t really blame anyone for taking this sort of nonsense to heart either. As I said in another TCJ comments thread recently, I’m not bothered by this sort of stuff, but I don’t necessarily wear that as a badge of pride.

    In short: my subjective observations are bigger than yours.
    They have six cars and a house in Ireland.

  35. Dominick Grace says:

    Special treatment within special treatment?

  36. All the (choke) “grrrrl anthologies” are screamingly awful. Even Scottish ones. And they are hardly “kicking against the pricks” by being uniformly shite.

  37. You seem to have missed the bit where I said my subjective opinions were bigger than yours, plus that they had more cars, and an extra house over in Ireland.

    Like I said, I don’t think the grrrl anthologies (definitely gonna keep saying that now, sorry – try to imagine Tony the tiger saying it, that might help) that I’ve seen are any more terrible than most (MOST!) of the non grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrly anthologies I’m used coming across*, but it’s cool that you feel otherwise, I’m off tae eat some Frosties.***

    *In a fit of unprecedented generosity, I’ll let someone else make the spunk joke here. What can I say, Christmas is a time for giving.**

    ** Spunky giving.

    ***Of course, in keeping with the season, these Frosties will be served in a bowl full of man milk. Mmmmmm. Man milk.

  38. Yes but only girl anthologies spell their names out in cupcake frosting.

  39. As I said on twitter (this conversation is doubling up on itself – my fault!), I’m not really interested in debating the aesthetics of Team Girl Comics etc. That aesthetic’s not really my thing, but I don’t cringe from that sort of “girly” stuff like you seem to either, so.

  40. Pingback: All Points Bulletin: Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids « Reverse Thieves

  41. Duncan says:

    You say that, TBMD, but look Hayley has written a hitpiece on Laura Sneddon here, as if to prove her own point.

    Truly dreadful article, btw.

  42. Duncan says:

    “Like”

  43. Briany Najar says:

    Your most recent comment, the original comment it’s supposed to be defending, and the article they’re both sitting underneath don’t all connect up in any obviously rational way.
    You’re moaning about the “Britishicity” of a comic that isn’t named, referred to, or discussed in the text?
    You hate the “post-Feminism” of an article that is complaining about the counter-productivity of seperatism and not having the courage of your own convictions? (I.E. these complaints of Campbell’s are entirely compatible with old-school Liberal Feminism.) (BTW, PF is a lot more nebulous and undefined than that Wikipedia quote suggests, not that I would ever want to undermine the reliability of Wikipedia as a research tool for garnering half-meaningless piffle from.) (Also, “amelioration” just means an improvement, not a complete negation.)
    And these are things that bug you about comics criticism? Which you announce in the comments of a piece which is not actually comics criticism.

    I guess maybe you were trying to be funny and/or get a reaction. Well, one out of two isn’t so bad.
    Oh and, hey, you’re into a bit of Structuralism and such, so that’s nice.

    I’ve ordered the glass for the front of the case, but it wont be arriving until sometime in the new year so you’ve got plenty of time to void your bowels. (I know what yr thinking but don’t worry, there are air holes already drilled down the sides – it’s all quite humane really.)

  44. Iain Cree says:

    Special treatment within a set of awards that were specifically designed to recognise the work of an overlooked group of creators. That’s right there in the article; it’s kind of striking the author didn’t notice it.

    I don’t read this site regularly so I admit I could have missed their article on how ridiculous it is that British comics creators expect to be given an award based on their accent and how they are demanding to be treated the same but differently. Someone should post a link to that.

  45. Kim Thompson says:

    Has anyone ever done the math of comparing female cartoonists’ relative presence in awards to their relative presence in the field as a whole? It’s easy enough to bellyache that, say, “Only 15% of these awards went to women, UNFAIR!” but if the published work by women only comprises, say, 10% of the overall work being published that’s hardly underrepresentation.

    The same holds true for percentage of women being published as compared to percentage of work submitted to publishers being by women: Although the latter figure is not publicly available, and I haven’t bothered to try to tally it in our case, my suspicion is that if anything, publishers like D+Q and ourselves publish a higher proportion of women than the proportion of women submitting work to us.

    Hayley is right that virtually all anthologies purposefully restricted by gender (or sexual preference, for that matter) are crap, because the quality bar has to be lowered almost to the level of a footstool to accommodate the severely restricted talent pool (although the uniformly excellent TWISTED SISTERS was one exception that proved the rule).

    By the way, arguing that the proportion of women-to-men in published comics (or in award lists or greatest lists) isn’t necessarily evidence of sexism in comics is not the same thing as arguing there is no sexism in comics, geniuses.

  46. It’d be interesting to see that sort of breakdown, for sure – like I said, I don’t have anywhere near a deep enough knowledge of contemporary UK comics to judge how well Duffield’s percentages reflect that breakdown of talent over here.

    “By the way, arguing that the proportion of women-to-men in published comics (or in award lists or greatest lists) isn’t necessarily evidence of sexism in comics is not the same thing as arguing there is no sexism in comics, geniuses.”

    Good of you to clear that up, it’s almost a shame not to let this stand of an example of how sticking a pointy bit at the end of a sentence can make almost any old sentiment cut, but I don’t think anyone here has actually acted as though they didn’t understand this. I can see one sentence of mine, in a paragraph that’s all about the breakdown of the nominations, that might possibly have prompted you make this little jab, but otherwise? I’ve just skimmed through the comments again and I can’t see anyone getting muddled in this particular way. SD and a few other people have talked about the broader issue of SEXISM IN COMICS, yadda yadda yadda, but they seemed to be doing so off the back of Hayley’s suggestion that championing WOMEN IN COMICS was gauche and unnecessary these days.

    I’ve helpfully doodled a couple of amendments on my monitor so that my sentence now reads “the idea that sexism is obviously not a problem (WITH THE LIST OF NOMINEES) because 25% of the nominees (IN SAID LIST) had lady-bits seems a bit glib and unconvincing to me” and I would ask that you all do the same at home. Thank you.

  47. George Fawkes says:

    “Hayley is right that virtually all anthologies purposefully restricted by gender (or sexual preference, for that matter) are crap, because the quality bar has to be lowered almost to the level of a footstool to accommodate the severely restricted talent pool”

    That’s a very silly and fatuous statement. Drawing from a one gender talent pool (out of the grand total of 2 genders available) is hardly a significantly debilitating theme/restriction/agenda for an anthology.
    And Twisted Sisters should in no way be held up as some kind of miraculous abberation of good: imo it was no better or worse than any other female only anthologies (had a comparable talent pool to late period Wimmen’s Comics for a start)

  48. Iain Cree says:

    There’s a selection bias effect in using submissions to comics publishers as a yardstick. Better to look at a field where there are no (perceived or actual) barriers to entry like webcomics and ask: if an Ursula Vernon or an Emily Carroll or a Kate Beaton wasn’t submitting her work to a comics publisher, why not?

  49. Dominick Grace says:

    An award for Best British Cartoonist, and then a subcategory award for Best Female British Cartoonist? I’d say that sounded patronizing, but “patronizing” is a sexist word…. Matronizing, perhaps.

  50. Kim Thompson says:

    2 genders available, of which 1 comprises only a fraction of the talent pool as a whole. As anyone who has ever edited an anthology can tell you (like, say… me!) it’s fiendishly difficult to achieve any kind of a quality standard even with NO restrictions of that kind.

    There also seems to be a near-irresistible temptation on the editors’ part to start judging submissions not on their intrinsic quality but the degree to which they conform with the “up with [blank]” agenda and to counteract a bias (real or perceived) against these cartoonists in the general marketplace. “This person’s technical skills aren’t that great but he or she has a worthy message to share” is a lovely sentiment, but the road to crappy comics anthologies is paved with good intentions.

  51. Briany Najar says:

    “I don’t read this site regularly so I admit I could have missed their article on how ridiculous it is that British comics creators expect to be given an award based on their accent and how they are demanding to be treated the same but differently. “

    I don’t think the BCA is the first example of a national award. They happen all around the planet, in many different artistic fields. The fact is, the difference between national cultures is enough that some piece of work which is highly relevant and poignant to people of one particular culture is not neccessarily going to chime with someone who lives in a very different part of the world. Hence there are literary awards, film awards, tv awards, gallery art awards for many different culturally bound regions, as well as international ones.
    That’s a bit of a simplification but basically national awards haven’t just been invented for this.

  52. Don Druid says:

    Of the women’s anthologies vs. the men’s anthologies I’ve read (and don’t pretend the latter don’t exist), the quality has been comparable as far as I’ve noticed.

  53. Kim Thompson says:

    The latter don’t exist, except if you play fast and loose with your definitions by combining anthologies whose editorial intent is to feature only women and anthologies who just end up featuring only men because no women could be found who were willing to contribute and/or up to the standards set by the editor.

    I tend to agree that most anthologies kinda suck, so maybe that’s what it boils down to. Maybe all-women anthologies aren’t particularly worse than co-ed anthologies if you take enough of a long view.

  54. Mike Hunter says:

    ————————
    Hayley Campbell says:

    These shrill cries of Won’t somebody think of the [women]! and labelling things as sexist (until they are mathematically (!) proven otherwise) thoroughly undermine and dilute the stuff that is actually sexist.
    ————————

    Yes, I’ve long been arguing along those lines elsewhere. And getting razzed “Because I Do Not Have a Pair Of Tits Attached To My Body.” Whenever even a sympathetic-to-the-cause male dares to find fault with a dubious, extremist feminist argument, it’s “mansplaining”; dismissed as condescending if not outright sexist, because all women are automatically more knowledgeable and ideologically correct about any woman-related subject than any male.

    So, when feminist Naomi Wolf argues in “Vagina: A New Biography” that the vagina is the center of Woman’s being (I kid you not!), or our entire society (including advertising and those silly-ass “Victoria’s Secret” catalogs) is described as a hooray-for-violation “rape culture,” Guys May Not Criticize.

    ———————-
    [Sub-Beef: Why, when women are challenged on the internet by something they said do so many run away and hide? I'm not talking about the cases of scary harassment or stalky dudes. I've seen people flee not because of threat but discussion and disagreement.
    -----------------------

    Indeed, this other "comics-and-stuff" site where I spend most my online time -- which could not be more "woman/gay/transgender positive" -- was described by one woman as "not really safe for women." Why? Not because any women were ever subjected to threats or insults there; but because a tiny minority disagreed with some dubious, extremist arguments, called them nonsense.

    Sheesh, what ever happened to all the strong, feisty feminists? Has "victim consciousness" metastasized so?

    ------------------------
    Kim Thompson says:

    ...There also seems to be a near-irresistible temptation on the editors’ part to start judging submissions not on their intrinsic quality but the degree to which they conform with the “up with [blank]” agenda and to counteract a bias (real or perceived) against these cartoonists in the general marketplace. “This person’s technical skills aren’t that great but he or she has a worthy message to share” is a lovely sentiment, but the road to crappy comics anthologies is paved with good intentions.
    ————————

    One unfortunate example was an AIDS-benefit comics anthology where one story featured gay guys being saved from the disease by…being turned into werewolves!

    Can’t speak for or against the technical quality of the story — I likely bought the book, but memories are fuzzy — but the concept is, um, dubious.

    Even the usually admirable “World War 3 Illustrated” has featured the occasional tale with a “worthy message, crappy comics” combination.

    Personally, though (certainly my standards are less finicky than others’; and maybe I’ve been luckier in my choices), I’ve actually found those types of anthology titles (i.e., “Gay Comix” [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_Comix ], “Wimmen’s Comix” [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wimmen%27s_Comix ]) overall pretty darn good.

    Moreover, though indeed it could be criticized as self-imposed “ghettoizing,” there’s much of value in gay and women’s anthologies that, because of their nature, encourage exploration of their respective “experiences,” rather than generalized storytelling or experimentation.

    I knew Howard Cruse as a talented, if unexceptional comics creator from work such as “Barefootz”; yet, what a blossoming of creativity, satire, observation, wit emerged once he focused on gay subjects! The “Gay Comix” anthology featured the range of the gay community, from the domesticity of Tim Bartela’s “Leonard and Larry,” Alison Bechdel’s “Coming Out Story,” Cruse’s demented and hilarious “Cabbage Patch Clone.”

    As a fairly recent example (least as far as my comics buying is concerned), the unfortunately-named but exceptional “Sexy Chix,” edited by Diana Schutz, likewise offered a fascinating variety of subjects from various women’s perspectives. I particularly admire Colleen Coover’s creepy, nonlinear delving into the mentality of a woman traumatized by some past “relationship.”

    As Schutz said at http://www.darkhorse.com/Interviews/1210/Diana-Schutz-Talks-Sexy-Chix , “to my knowledge, Sexy Chix is the first anthology of female cartoonists that includes women who work primarily for mainstream comics publishers: Gail Simone, Jill Thompson, Colleen Doran, Rebecca Woods. Past anthologies I’ve seen have been restricted to cartoonists working in some ‘ghettoized’ area of comics: underground comix or small-press comics of one sort or another.”

    Did these women “mainstream” comics creators then produce the same ol’ same ol’? No, they took the advantage of the opportunity of being in a woman-only anthology to make stories more attuned to women’s perspectives and experiences.

    Which is hardly the stuff of great sales — alas, in the head shop where I discovered and bought my first undergrounds, I seemed to be the only one buying women-focused comics — but can offer insights and aesthetic pleasures in their own right.

  55. Eric Reynolds says:

    This thread made me wonder how many women I published in Mome, I’d never thought of it before. I think it was about ten: Lilli Carré, Eleanor Davis, Laura Park, Andrice Arp, Gabrielle Bell, Sara Edward-Corbett, Reneé French, Aidan Koch, Kaela Graham and Sophie Crumb. I think they’re all fucking awesome.

  56. Don Druid says:

    “The latter don’t exist, except if you play fast and loose with your definitions”

    Patriarchy doesn’t exist either in America – Hell, it’s not even mentioned in the Constitution. Oh wait . . .

  57. Don Druid says:

    “So, when feminist Naomi Wolf argues in “Vagina: A New Biography” that the vagina is the center of Woman’s being (I kid you not!), or our entire society (including advertising and those silly-ass “Victoria’s Secret” catalogs) is described as a hooray-for-violation “rape culture,” Guys May Not Criticize.”

    I have yet to read a single person writing about that title, man or woman, who hasn’t viciously criticized it.

  58. Don Druid says:

    . . . . . . . . . . yeah :(

  59. Mike Hunter says:

    “Hooray!” was my thought. However, I Google’d “Vagina: A New Biography reviews,” and the first six critiques that came up ranged from mildly critical to positive, with only “The New Yorker” piece a hearty slam-fest.

    But, what a delight to learn at the seventh that…

    “Feminists have enjoyed a rare moment of widespread agreement: This book, without a doubt, is awful.” A juicy, hearty take-down of the meretricious malarkey of Wolf’s book at http://www.themillions.com/2012/09/the-feminist-hate-read-book-club-reads-naomi-wolfs-vagina-a-new-biography.html .

  60. Kim Thompson says:

    When I originally launched ZERO ZERO, I sent out letters of inquiry to a ton of female cartoonists and pretty much every one turned me down. So I published a number of issues of ZERO ZERO that were pretty much all-male as a result… and then female cartoonists started turning me down because they said there weren’t enough female cartoonists in ZERO ZERO.

    Part of it was admittedly because I’d laid down a “no-autobiography” rule and for whatever reason it seemed like every female cartoonist was in that category at the time. (Even today, the fiction/autobio breakdown tilts far heavier toward autobio among women than men.) Was the editorial decision to avoid autobio thus an inherently sexist one?

  61. R. Fiore says:

    This is hardly the place for that kind of gossip. Kind of tells you why they call him “awesome,” though.

  62. Scott Grammel says:

    Pretty much.

  63. Kim Thompson says:

    Well, tough, then. I think the no-autobio rule gave ZERO ZERO a level of energy that was missing in the predominantly, I thought exasperatingly, navel-gazing 1990s alternative comics world. And ZERO ZERO did end up having one (strong) fictional work by a woman, Francesca Ghermandi’s “Pop. 666″ (although you’ll notice I had to go outside North America for that).

    I’m still puzzled why the proportion of fiction to autobio skews so differently between male and female cartoonists, and I’m smart enough to know that any attempt to unpack this will get me in trouble. Anyone else, be my guest.

  64. Mike Hunter says:

    The remarkably varied and consistently excellent “ZERO ZERO” kept coming to my mind as I heard people here regularly issuing sweeping condemnations of comics anthologies.

    As for “why the proportion of fiction to autobio skews so differently between male and female cartoonists,” must admit I’d never noticed the discrepancy, though I cheerfully bow to your publishing credentials and expertise.

    (The many males in comics who’ve made such a “splash” with autobiography certainly created a skewed impression.)

    An online search failed to turn up a quick n’ easy explanation for the phenomenon, though “The Journey Inward: Women’s Autobiography” (just Google the title to access a downloadable PDF of the article) mentions these interesting qualities:

    ———————–
    …Estelle Jelinek asserts that women’s autobiography is unique in three ways. First, women autobiographers focus on their personal lives, rather than on broad historical or public issues of their times…the emphasis is on family, friends, and domestic matters. Secondly, women use irony, humor, understatement, and a straightforward style, rather than the idealized, self-confident, exaggerated, and sometimes nostalgic style used by many male autobiographers.

    Finally, Jelinek notes that the structure of women’s autobiographies is rarely chronological. Rather than being smoothly unfolding narratives, women’s autobiographies are fragmentary, disconnected, or are organized into chapters that could stand alone. Frequently, women autobiographers interrupt themselves to tell an anecdote or relate a mental association. In contrast to men, women often keep journals in which they try to discover themselves, rather than write retrospective memoirs about a self that has already been formed.
    ——————–

    …with this info in mind, it’s interesting to look back at the sizable body of autobiographical stories in comics, and consider how individual male and female creators fit / don’t fit the mold.

    (See, also, “Autobiography and the ‘History’ of Women” at http://www.pomerleau.org/cindy/Chapter1.html )

  65. Kyle says:

    fdsf, I hope to God you’re a man.

  66. Kyle says:

    Hunter, just put your big quotes in quotation marks. Yes, the big quotes have smaller quotations inside them. But the smaller quotations can be set off by single quote marks (‘like this’). If that’s too much trouble, let the smaller quotes keep their regular quote marks (“like this”).

    Having a quote within a quote, and both quotes set off by the same kind of quotation mark, is still less confusing then those fucking fucking fucking lines.

  67. Mike Hunter says:

    Thanks for the suggestion, but I like those little lines. What’s so “confusing” about them? I’m clearly differentiating other people’s past statements. Were this in a printed piece (which I’ve been in the business of designing for 30+ years), I could set them off in a little box, or with a colored background, or a different font. This seems the simplest way here, and is not overly visually intrusive.

    Since my own statements include plenty of quotation marks on their own — for titles, “irony” quotes — just adding more quotes to the batch does not provide sufficient “separation” for my tastes.

    For me, “Having a quote within a quote, and both quotes set off by the same kind of quotation mark” would create a “lookalike” effect, without sufficient highlighting for remarks from others in the thread.

    Seeking a sample of “lookalike” stuff, the White Pages came to mind. I searched online, but found…

    http://eleuthera.com/eleuphone1.gif

    …Why, they’re using little lines to separate and highlight sections!

  68. Briany Najar says:

    blockquote

    Were this in a printed piece (which I’ve been in the business of designing for 30+ years), I could set them off in a little box, or with a colored background, or a different font.

    /blockquote

  69. Mike Hunter says:

    Thanks for the tip, I’ll try that slash-blockquote thing!

  70. Briany Najar says:

    tags inside “greaterthan”/”less than” brackets:
    >blockquote<
    >/blockquote<

  71. Briany Najar says:

    Aah! wrong way round.
    <blckquote>
    </blockquote>
    comme ça

  72. Malcolm says:

    Erm. That’s a quote from Jim in the comment above TBMD not Hayley so the article doesn’t ‘prove’ any ‘point’ related to this.
    Truly dreadful comment, btw.
    Also, using words like ‘hitpiece’ just make you sound like a pseudo-journalist that’s jealous of people that actually get stuff published. (cf. ‘Troll’)
    Apart from that, good work.

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