Man's Hard World
So why aren't there more women in the in comics industry? We've all heard the various theories explaining why. "It must be the boy's club keeping us out." "It must be the oversexed genre of superheroes scaring us away." Seems just about everyone is sure that in some way somehow sexism is clearly to blame. I disagree. And, I mean, I REALLY disagree.
So why aren't more women making comics professionally? I have a theory of my own. It is based strictly on anecdotal evidence and my own experience, so take for what it is, but I believe the real culprit here is the 1960s. No, seriously. By the time I was in school in the 1990s all the feminists of the 60's had become moms and teachers and camp councilors and a half-gazillion other roles that'd have a hand in my raising as I grew up. And from day one, all these women made sure us girls knew we could be anything we wanted to be- a doctor or an astronaut or lawyer or whatever. Growing up I was told constantly that I was just as capable (or even more so) as "any smelly old boy".
In school administrators encouraged me to pursue subjects like math and science. Girl Scouts encouraged us to "aim high" and reinforced the idea that the glass ceiling could be shattered as long as we stuck to our dreams. And Ms. Magazine popularized the idea of "take your daughter to work day." All around me I was being told I not only could achieve my dreams, but that I was entitled to them. Problem is, at the end of the day, all these feminist moms and teachers and camp councilors were still treating me like "a little girl."
How so? Well, I recall the old story about the parents who were teaching their daughter and son how to ride a bike. On the first try, the girl falls, hits the pavement, and goes to tears. Mommy immediately rushes over to comfort away the tears. "Oh, baby, you tried your best. You don't have to ever do that again if you don't want to." Then the boy tries and falls, dad steps in, picks the boy up, gives him a few pointers, and tells him to try again. And this was my life, at least the bit about the girl.
So you see, all my life I was fed the line that I can achieve anything and all that jazz, but the second things got difficult and I got discouraged, I was told, "Oh, baby, you tried your best. You don't have to ever do that again if you don't want to." And it wasn't just my mom. It was my aunts, my teachers, and the whole feminist establishment in general. All my life I was told I was entitled to success, but never given the chance to toughen up. All through school there were programs to help me out. All through college there were programs to make sure I, a privileged white girl(!?), could afford tuition. And even clubs on campus to "protect" this privileged white girl while I walked the "dangerous" halls of a San Diego Community College.
If my experience is the norm for women my age, it is no wonder we are having a hard time getting ahead in a highly competitive industry like comics?! And even worse, is every time a woman falls down in this industry and refuses to get back up, there's an entire cult of internet feminists out there ready to comfort them with the ultimate in self-serving excuses, "It's not your fault you failed. It's a male dominated industry." Oh, give me a break! Is this what we've been reduced to?!?! Gender conspiracy theories?!
There are too many angry princesses who've swallowed the conspiracy excuse hook, line, and sinker. I mean, there really are women out there who truly believe that all you need to score a publishing deal is to be white and have a penis. Sadly, one of the most vocal of these princesses that I personally know is a woman whom is an amazing story-teller, an accomplished journalist, and has even had her work picked-up by a major publisher. XXXX, if you are reading this, I am truly sorry, but this needs to be said. A few years ago at the San Diego Comic Con this woman pitched a book to a particular publisher famous for comics about astronauts with problems in space. The owner, known for his blunt sense of humor, laughed and gave her the brush off. Immediately, in her eyes, this publisher was a complete sexist Neanderthal jerk-asshole who hates women. Now, the funny thing is, earlier that day, my husband Josh had pitched a story to this same guy. And when he turned Josh down, it was almost word for word the exact same things that he'd said to this woman. Or as Josh put it, "Wow, I think he must practice that refusal speech in the mirror." But she just could not accept that publisher XXXXX wasn't interested in her script. No, they whole company had to be evil! The owner a horrible misogynist! The staff, all sexist assholes! And even worse, her emo-boy husband was there patting her shoulder, agreeing and saying essentially, "Oh, baby, you tried your best. It's not your fault. What else can you expect from a male dominated industry?" I can say without a doubt, those words DO NOT HELP ANYONE. It supports an irrational hatred towards men. It paints a publisher as a sexist monster, when in truth he was just a tired guy at a booth. And it definitely won't help this woman's career.
Okay, now in all fairness, I have to admit I struggle with this problem, too. I want success to come easy. I feel entitled to my dreams. And when I fall down, I really don't want to get back up. I face this problem every day. And it happens just about every day because art is hard. Comics are hard. And I have a nasty habit of wanting to abandon my craft every time it gets difficult. The difference between me and these angry princesses is I don't blame men or buy into stupid gender conspiracy theories. The last thing aspiring female comics creators need is another angry gender support club to throw them a pitty party next time they fail.
Women need to toughen up, including myself. We need to get out there and make our dreams happen. We need to stop pretending some dark fanboy cabal is working in the shadows to keep us out of the comics industry. We need to stop blaming and actually start accomplishing. Yes, comics are hard. Life is hard. Toughen up. If one publisher turns you down, screaming "sexism!" isn't going to increase your chances of success. Reevaluating your pitch will. And if that's too difficult a concept to grasp, then maybe you shouldn't be in this industry at all.
Okay, now I'd like to take the opportunity to talk about the flip side of this issue. I want to spotlight some female creators out there who are tough, who are smart, and very much driven to succeed. Women who inspire me to do better and achieve more. The first is Chandra Free, creator of The God Machine, published by Archaia Studio Press. This woman has fought through rejections, publisher delays, even medical issues, to make sure her vision is realized in print. Every time Chan picks up a pencil to draw, she's got to fight through the pain in her wrists, yet she still manages to produce one of the most visually compelling books on the shelves today.
The second is Jules Rivera, creator of Marsh Rocket. Jules is an incredibly talented creator who has done the near-impossible. She has written, drawn, and completed a three year web comic without missing a deadline, all the while maintaining a level of quality that puts most of Tokyo Pop's titles to shame. Jules is the very definition of driven, plus she's got a brutal sense of humor and is the kind of person who will always a tell it to you straight. Got to respect that.
These are women who inspire me when I fall down, when things get tough, and I throw up my hands and want to give up. If there were more women like Chandra and Jules participating in comics we'd see a lot more women behind the booths at larger companies as well as a general healthier attitude towards gender in the industry.
The God Machine is currently in the August Previews Code: AUG09 0638 and will be in stores this October. Marsh Rocket in it's entirety can be read at www.marsh-rocket.com and the three graphic novels can be purchased from her website. As for the Women in Refrigerators article I promise, please be patient. It is actually finished, but I'm trying to get Gail Simone to add her two cents before I share it with you all.
Kat Rocha is a comic book artist currently collaborating artistically with writer/artist Josh Finney on the acclaimed sci-fi series Titanium Rain from Archaia Studio Press. She lives with her husband in San Diego, collects knives and enjoys drawing pin ups of strong, buxom women in her free time. Titanium Rain #1 will be available in the June 09 Preview.
To read more of Kat's rantings, visit, http://kat-a-pult.blogspot.com
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