Monday, December 19, 2011

Gender Issues

I’ve noticed a lot of female and gender neutral comic artists have been writing about gender and sexuality issues- mainly they shouldn’t have to dress as a stereotypical ‘lady’ or specified gender if they don’t want to, and they shouldn’t have to confirm to gender norms.  I don’t have any quibble about that, but their vehement arguments make me feel a little awkward about being a female comic artist who likes to dress and behave according to traditional gender norms (for the most part, I realize that comic art wasn't always a career choice for 'the fairer sex').  I feel like I’m letting them down, undermining the cause, and that I’m exactly the sort of girl that they hate. 
I spent six years of my life wanting gender and sexual ambiguitiy for my work, that’s what “Nattosoup” was all about.  I wanted to work behind a screen of anonymity, but I’ve come to realize that I’d rather spend that effort that anonymity requires improving my art instead.  Let’s just say I need that much help in the art department.  I respect artists who don’t want their gender or sexuality to become a factor in their popularity.  I don’t blame them, I’d rather my art be respected on its own terms, but I’ve come to accept the fact that I am probably going to have to attend cons to hawk my wares, meet editors in person, and I have no desire to hide the fact that I am indeed a woman.  And this comes to my second point:

I really, REALLY love dressing up.  Fashion is the only hobby comics has allowed me to keep, and I refuse to give it up.  I dress like a woman.  I wear dresses and skirts nearly every single day of my life, along with heels, stockings, and jewelry.  I do not wear makeup, my hair is cut short because I have no idea how to properly style my own hair, but otherwise, I am as ‘girly’ as they come.  This doesn’t make me any less of a comic artist, and it doesn’t mean I don’t deserve your respect.  My appearance is a small aspect of my life, and besides dressing professionally because I respect the people I encounter in my day to day life, it has no bearing on those around me.  I don’t dress this way to make others feel inferior.  I don’t dress this way to make other girls uncomfortable, or even to attract the attention of guys.  Compliments make me mildly uncomfortable, unless they’re about my art, or how hard working I am, or how much I’ve improved artistically.

I don’t identify myself as being ‘pretty', and I don't expect special treatment for donning a dress.  For years, I was mistaken as a guy, because I am thin and have ambiguous features.  The short hair only makes this worse.  Some people don’t mind ambiguity, I hated it.  I needed an identity and I craved respect, and I was accorded none in those days.   

I don’t really know what other female comic artists have to endure every day.  I feel fairly fortunate that SEQA’s gender ratio is in favor of women, but I get the impression that even if this were not so, my professors would treat me professionally and with respect.  I am sure I’m in for a rude awakening when I finally enter the professional comic arena, but as more and more women become editors, publishers, and publicists, I can only hope that I’m allowed to be who I am without any sort of harassment. 

Please note:  I am not saying anything against these other comic artists.  They are so stalwart in their defense of their rights, so eloquent in their argument that they should be who they are, that I thought I’d chime in, as someone who stands at nearly the opposite pole, a woman who doesn’t want to stand out for anything but her work.