Friday, May 11, 2012

Either/Or vs. Both/And

I read comic books. I have both a nostalgic connection to them from my youth, and a love of the medium here and now--I enjoy watching the medium grow, shift and change, even as I (sometimes) still wish for the days when comics were printed on crappy paper and cost 75 cents. (For those not in the know: They are no longer 75 cents.)  Because comics-as-media exist in the larger world of media, there are many more comics made by and about men than there are comics made by and about women. This is especially true when it comes to superhero comics (which is still most comics, though that seems to be shifting somewhat).  Is this changing? Sure. But slooooowly. Way too slowly, for many of us. 

Because there are so many more men than women making comics, I do seek out women creators--and one such up-and-coming creator is Kelly Sue DeConnick. I originally heard of DeConnick years and years ago, because she was good friends with one of my favorite artists, Lauren McCubbin.  Recently I started following her work, embarrassingly, simply because she has a really good tumblr. I decided to check out her work on a comic callsed Osborne, and I was hooked. She's great. 

Because she's got a new book coming out that stars a female character, and in part because there are so few superhero books that star female characters, she's getting asked a lot about her take on women-in-comics.  (Ok, let's be honest: Because she's a woman in a male-dominated industry, she's getting asked a lot about her take on women in comics.  But the new book adds to it.)  During a recent interview, she makes it perfectly clear that she is both a straight-up comic book writer and a feminist:
I am outspoken, have always been so and I very much unapologetically consider myself to be a feminist. I don't think that's a bad word. I resent how that has been taken away from me, how I'm supposed to be, "Well I'm not a feminist..." No! Yes I am! I have a daughter. I want my daughter to have every opportunity in this world that my son has, and for that reason I am a feminist. Before I had Tallulah, I was much more concerned with being liked, and now for her sake I don't give a shit if you like me. I will fight so that she does not have to. I will try to handle with grace things that make me want to put my fist through the wall because I want her to have a better world. I want her to have more opportunities.

I knew my great-grandmother. She lived until I was in college, I knew her very well. I knew her as a woman. My great-grandmother was young when we got the vote. This is recent history, you know? I was a young Wonder Woman reading girl during the ERA movement. I remember all of that! We still don't have equal pay, my son is still safer walking around in the world than my daughter is. I'm more comfortable with the idea of him driving at night than I am my daughter. They're 2 and 4 so, happily, this is not an issue just yet, but still. This is a thing that I'm outspoken about, so thus, because that is part of my personality, that has become part of my “brand” or whatever -- and now I'm writing a female lead book.

It's pretty easy to get wrapped up in feminist identity--after all, once you start seeing stuff through feminist lenses, it's difficult to unsee all of it, and there are lots of fights to be fought; identifying as a feminist (or pro-feminist) helps buttress oneself during these struggles. It gives one a place to stand, and sometimes a community to stand with one. But it's also important to recognize that no person is that easily summed up. I'm starting to realize this as regards folks that I disagree with, as well as those I agree with--and it gives one a lot more room to exist in the world.  Either/or is not a healthy place to exist for very long. It's exhausting. Both/and represents growth, and allows one to interact with others in a way that doesn't demonize, and perhaps (perhaps!) gets more good work done. 

Some of what DeConnick says later on in the interview (I think) oversimplifies the relationship between "the business of comics" and the dearth of female comic creators ("dearth" here doesn't mean there are no women creating comics, but that there are So. Many. Men. by comparison), but I like how DeConnick is responding to the folks who are "branding" her as a woman who writes comics.  
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